“Making its own sunshine"
In early August, an eighty-strong volunteer group, comprising current Oundle pupils, former pupils and five pupils from other local schools, ran the 2015 Oundle School Mencap Holiday (OSMH), now in its 33rd year, held at Oundle School.
Not only does Oundle Mencap give a week’s holiday to forty children with learning disabilities, it offers their families a week’s respite from care whilst enabling Oundle Sixth formers to learn about caring for young people with learning disabilities in a safe and protective environment.
The theme of the 2015 holiday was ‘Wild West’. During the week the children fashioned giant wagons from cardboard boxes, built totem poles from empty milk bottles, made dream catchers and rainmakers and enjoyed Wild West-themed games and plays which, in accordance with OSMH tradition, involved plenty of singing and dressing up.
Children and volunteers enjoyed the usual days out to Twin Lakes and nearby Wicksteed Park, as well as den-building and climbing in Rutland and a visit to the Burghley Gardens of Surprise. The traditional day out at the seaside took place at Hunstanton, where the group swam in the North Sea, visited the Sea Life Centre and took on the waltzers in the amusement park.
Kate Taylor, Holiday Leader, commented, “Our children had the most fantastic holiday once again. We say that we run one holiday for forty children, but really we are providing forty bespoke experiences, tailored to the specific needs of each young person. The commitment and energy of our volunteers who do this is just amazing. The thank you letters and emails have been pouring in, with many of the children already counting down the days until next year’s holiday.”
Sarah Ratchford, OSMH trustee and Housemistress at Oundle School, commented, “I want to thank and congratulate our Sixth Form pupils for all they achieved during the week. They stepped up to the mark in every sense and provided outstanding care to these vulnerable young people. Our hope is that they will take what they have learnt out into the wider world and act as ambassadors, showing just how much ability there is within ‘disability’. This year five helpers from other local schools also volunteered which we hope will widen the impact of the holiday on the local community."
Over the August bank holiday weekend, the fourth Oundle Mencap Outdoors holiday took place, a camping weekend for young adults with learning disabilities. Almost fifty young people and volunteers camped in the village of Wadenhoe, near Oundle, and enjoyed cooking outdoors, craft activities, collecting firewood, horse riding, climbing, archery – and bowling in Peterborough on the wettest day!
“Thank you so much for giving our son the opportunity to join you in Oundle. He had an amazing time and talks about the memories a lot. Everyone has said how much more grown up he seems and I think that is down to that week. He is counting down the days til’ the next time!”
“Once again, thank you so much for organising the wonderful camping holiday last weekend. The logistics are amazing, when you start packing everything up, you begin to realise how much is involved. Our son enjoyed every minute of it, despite the weather and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. How you all manage to cope when it didn’t seem to stop raining, I can’t imagine. Huge thanks as ever - it is definitely the highlight of his year.”
“Please pass on my thanks to your wonderful band of helpers, who have surpassed themselves again. Their ability to still have a smile on their face after the last few wet days is truly admirable. Our son is man of few words but having gleaned a few things he got up to when I collected him, it was obvious what a great time he had and his face lit up when asked about the weekend. He especially enjoyed the disco where a gather he had the chance to sing, always a winner with him. A huge thank you again for providing him with some wonderful memories over the weekend and for your amazing ability to make your own sunshine!”
For more information on Oundle School Mencap Holidays, visit www.oundlemencap.co.uk.
Background Information on Oundle School
Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.
The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion which opened in April 2015.
There are currently 1110 pupils are on roll at Oundle School, with 860 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11.