Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards visited Mary Hare School on Thursday 28th June to learn more about educating deaf children in a specialist environment and, more specifically, the provision that Mary Hare offers. Included in the visit was Susan Daniels, Chief Executive of the NDCS.
Mr Gibb met with Principal and CEO Peter Gale and discussed the wider issues of deaf education, in particular, the merits of ‘leaving one’s community to get a better education’. Mr Gibb understood the merits of this but also the decisions that families must face when boarding is necessary because of the distance from home.
Mr Gibb met also Head Girl, Naomi and Year 8 pupil Hope. Both explained what Mary Hare has meant to them and how, being at the school has changed their lives, including, having a real friendship group, having the opportunity to access lessons fully and having the confidence to be deaf and not be embarrassed about their hearing equipment, all issues that many deaf children face in a mainstream setting.
Mr Gibb then toured the school visiting two lessons; the first a Year 8 lesson with a group of pupils needing a greater language enrichment programme. During this lesson visit Mr Gibb spoke to the pupils about India, the topic they were studying and told them a bit more about his role as an MP. After telling the group that he worked in the Houses of Parliament near Big Ben, one pupil asked, ‘do you work in Big Ben?’
The next class was a Year 7 top set Maths class. Mr Gibb was pleased to hear all the pupils giving him the correct answers when he asked them times table questions, a topic that he supported reintroducing into the primary curriculum. He was very interested in the number of girls in the top set for maths and the number of girls due to study Maths A Level in next year academic year – more than 50% of the class.
Many of the pupils were keen to answer Mr Gibb’s questions on their experiences in mainstream school. Finding the lessons difficult to follow, not having real friends and the speed of lessons were top of the list. ‘Boarding is great,’ said one pupil, ‘and I settled as soon as I came to Mary Hare. I wasn’t homesick at all because there was so much to do.’
Mr Gibb said of his visit, 'I was hugely impressed by the ambition and achievements I witnessed at Mary Hare School. The pupils I met on my visit all exhibited a strong work ethic and dedication to their studies and it was a pleasure to see such a high standard of behaviour. The expertise, experience and dedication of staff at Mary Hare ensures all its pupils are being given the best opportunities to reach their full potential.'
The final question from Mr Gibb was, ‘what would you all like to do in the future?’ The answers ranged from a Mounted Policewoman to an Astrophysicist. After all, setting your sights high is a motto that all pupils aspire to at Mary Hare and this certainly came through during the visit.
The school was delighted to have welcomed Mr Gibb and delighted with his interest and questions.