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17:12:2021 - A Unique School for Unique Students

A Unique School for Unique Students

Choosing a school or residential care for a child or young person with additional support needs can be a complex and often overwhelming process for families.

Parent’s know their children better than anyone else: their strengths and their unique needs. So, it’s not surprising that for many parents, the number one priority is finding a school that treats students as the individuals they are.

Being inclusive and caring for each person’s unique needs and aspirations is something that Camphill School Aberdeen in the north east of Scotland knows all about. Nestled among the rolling hills of west Aberdeen, the independent charity aspires to be as diverse as the youngsters that make up its shared living community, offering a haven to children and young people who often struggle the thrive in mainstream services.

Currently providing day and residential placements to around 90 students across the region, the school offers an inclusive, lifelong learning culture with an integrated therapeutic approach to health, education and care.

Here are a few more things that make Camphill School Aberdeen different from the rest:

It’s a true Pioneer

Founded in 1939, Camphill School Aberdeen was the first of its kind in Britain, sparking the worldwide Camphill movement which now consists of over 120 independent charities, in 23 countries. At a time when young people with disabilities in Britain were passed by in terms of education, the founder of the school took a different path. With the help of a group of Austrian refugees, Dr Karl Konig created a shared community for children and young people with complex and challenging needs, a place everyone could feel safe, respected and included. 

Its students are at the heart of everything

When it comes to learning, care and support, Camphill School Aberdeen is student centric. Following the ethos of its founder Dr Konig, it uses educational, therapeutic and creative approaches to enhance the well being of students. A calm, safe and family environment has been created on campus where mutual relationships between students can flourish, alongside the natural environment.

It empowers young people to learn and reach their potential

We empower young people, regardless of their abilities, to become confident, independent and reach their fullest potential. Through its Learning for Life Day Services, young people are offered a range of meaningful activities. From repairing old bikes in the garage workshop to taking part in art, weaving or felting lessons - everyone has the chance to learn new skills in a community which celebrates personal achievements.

 

It’s committed to sustainability

On campus we treat each other and the environment with mutual care and respect. The 50-hectares of open space and woodlands ensure young people have freedom to develop without physical barriers. Sustainability is at the core of all services, with students growing and eating their own organic meat and vegetables, reducing waste, decreasing carbon emissions and practicing the principles of the circular economy. 

 

It’s a tight-knit community with family values

Everyone belongs, is valued and has something meaningful to offer at Camphill School Aberdeen. There are ten residential houses on campus with young people and staff living side by side in a true home from home setting, sharing living experiences. Healthy routines are introduced into daily life which include activities such as cooking ,house work, laundry and gardening. The focus is on developing both independence and care for each other in a mutually supportive environment.

It takes a holistic approach

From therapeutic art and music to specially selected workshop activities, the school offers a range of support therapies. Research indicates therapies like this have a positive impact on the health, wellbeing and quality of life of young adults with complex additional support needs. 

…And it’s has the facts to prove it works

Life at Camphill School Aberdeen is truly transformational with 80% of students achieving or exceeding personal milestones and on average a 40% drop in challenging behaviors . At Camphill young people typically become better equipped to manage their health and wellbeing, with over 95% of parents testifying to this, many are entered for SQA National Qualifications and others complete their Duke of Edinburgh Award.   

 

Every year it delivers life transforming outcomes for thousands of children and young people who struggle to thrive in mainstream education due to a range of complex and multiple diagnoses, such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Attachment Disorder and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

 

17:12:2021 - The Story Behind Britain’s First School for Children and Young people with additional support needs.

The Story Behind Britain’s First School for Children and Young people with additional support needs.

Despite being part of the north east of Scotland’s community for 80 years, Camphill School Aberdeen’s work with vulnerable children and young people has sometimes been described as the region’s best kept secret.

Since the late 1930’s, it has offered a safe haven to thousands of young people with a range of complex and challenging needs. This was the start of the Camphill movement, as it now known, and has become one of the largest networks of independent voluntary sector organisations , providing services for people with disabilities around the world, consisting of more than 120 independent charities in 23 countries, which has transformed millions of lives.

What many people don’t know is how a pilot initiative for a handful of youngsters, in a makeshift classroom became the bustling community that it is today. Now in its 80th year of operation, we take a look back at how it all began.

It was May 1939 when a group of Austrian refugees led by Dr Karl Konig, an Austrian paediatrician, arrived on Scottish shores, with a vision ahead of their time. They wanted to create a safe and inclusive community for young people with disabilities to grow, learn and live full and happy lives. Fleeing from the threat of war and in search of refuge, the newcomers initially settled in an old manse near Insch in Aberdeenshire, which provided them with a place to live and live of the gardens and land.

At this time, there was an estimated half a million boys and girls with disabilities in Britain and life for them was extremely tough. Many were excluded from education and other dimensions of society and often ended up in institutions against their own will.

However, the Camphill pioneers took a contrasting approach - their vision was to create a shared living community where the individuality and potential of profoundly challenged children was developed. They believed each of us has a destiny to fulfil and challenged the general opinion that people with learning disabilities were somehow lesser than others and should therefore be segregated.

Not long after making their move to Scotland, in 1940 Dr Konig purchased Camphill Estate after an act of philanthropy from the people of Aberdeen. This is still part of Camphill School’s Aberdeen Campus and is where the Camphill name comes from. Here, the hard work began and with an initial 12 children living on site they started building for the future. They officially opened St John’s School as it was known then, in 1951 and within a few years decided to arrange classes based on students ages rather than academic ability. This flew in the face of traditional perceptions of disability at this time. As the reputation of the school grew, so did the numbers of students, and more homes were constructed on campus.Currently there are more than 90 children and young people aged between three and 25 that make up the Camphill School Aberdeen family, using the accredited day and residential services with a range of complex and multiple diagnoses, such as Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Attachment Disorder and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. Many of our young people have struggled to cope in mainstream education, yet thrive here at Camphill School.

The reason for this is our unique approach, where we integrate primary and secondary education, vocational workshops, lifelong learning, expert care and therapies all within a shared living community which creates meaningful experiences.

The open space and woodlands that surround the three campuses in west Aberdeen ensures that each young person has the freedom to develop without physical barriers, whilst accessing the therapeutic benefit of their surroundings. Sustainability is at the core of all services, ranging from growing and eating their own organic meat and vegetables, reducing waste, decreasing carbon emissions and practising the principles of the circular economy.

Despite its growth, the Camphill mantra to value and treat every human being equally holds firm. The young people are empowered, regardless of their challenges and encouraged to recognise personal achievements, grow in confidence and independence and most importantly fulfil their potential.

As we lookback over the years with a sense of pride at all that has been achieved at Camphill School Aberdeen, it’s clear that same philosophy of inclusivity, mutual respect and educational opportunities remains at the heart of this ever-expanding community.

And that’s certainly one legacy that Dr Konig and his team would be incredibly proud to have left behind.