Taking The Collett School History Project to the House of Commons has been the highlight of the year so far. As Lucy and I come to the end of working with this wonderful special needs school in Hemel Hempstead we reflect on this triumphant finale.
After a year of collecting oral histories to celebrate the school’s 50th Anniversary, we succeeded in our ultimate goal for the project, which was to take the exhibition to Westminster and relay the amazing stories of the school to Ministers and MPs.
It goes without saying that, being invited to display our work at the seat of Government was a huge honour. Lucy and I were really thrilled about that and it’s going to be hard to top Speaker’s Green as a venue for one of our exhibitions.
What was particularly amazing was having the palace of Westminster as a dramatic backdrop. Suddenly our scaffolding structure, which only just squeezed into the school’s playground, looked like a tiny toy next to Barry and Pugin’s magnificent architecture.
However, the greatest joy in the whole event was seeing how much it meant to the teachers and children from The Collett School. To have the honour of representing 50 years of special needs education, and having their voices and experiences heard in Westminster, was very exciting indeed.
The school’s local MP, Mike Penning, who arranged for the exhibition to take place in Parliament, explained why he wanted to bring the exhibition to Speaker’s Green:
“The Collett School is a very special school and has a very special place in my heart. I visit as often as I can and I run my annual Christmas card competition with the children of the school. This is a great opportunity for Ministers and MPs to hear first-hand the untold stories of the pupils of this great school. This is the first time ever that an exhibition of this nature has been held on Speaker’s Green and it was a wonderful experience for the children and a great opportunity for my Parliamentary colleagues to learn more about special needs education and the experiences of those who have left the school and the difference it has made to their lives.”
“It was fantastic for our pupils, past and present, to share our story with so many MPs at the exhibition of our oral histories project at Parliament. Our pupils were fantastic ambassadors for the school and people with learning difficulties, taking pride in their achievements, hopes and aspirations for contributing to our mainstream world.”
Thanks to Mike Penning’s efforts we had over 30 MPs show up on the day, Wednesday 24th June, and even Boris Johnson made an appearance. We were delighted by the positive response the exhibition received. You can read about what the MPs thought over on the portfolio page.
On returning back to school it was wonderful to hear the children’s reaction to their visit to Westminster. We hope that the excitement of meeting MPs while representing their school will stay with them for years to come. Here are a few of their responses.
Billy (14): “It was an amazing experience meeting MPs and Ministers at the Houses of Parliament.”
Rose (15): “It was absolutely awesome. I enjoyed telling people about our school.”
Connor (9): “I liked seeing Big Ben. I talked to the MPs and told them about the school.”
Jordan (10): “We got to see Big Ben, we told the MPs about our school and showed them around our exhibition.”