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One hundred years of learning and laughter in our hospitals

05/10/2020

Oxfordshire Hospital School (OHS), which provides young patients at Oxford University Hospitals with an education during their stay in hospital, is celebrating its centenary today (Monday 5 October 2020).

The specialist school, believed to be the oldest in the UK, possibly the world, helps educate ill patients staying at the Oxford Children’s Hospital at the John Radcliffe Hospital and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, as well as the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. 

Classes are also held alongside Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust at the Highfield Adolescent Unit, at Helen and Douglas House and in community settings.

OHS, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2017, teaches children and young people aged 4-19 who are unable to attend their home school due to a wide range of medical and mental health needs. 

The School was created in 1920 on the site of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, then known as the 'Wingfield Hospital'. The original teaching manuals show that there were only 14 pupils and lessons largely took place outside when the school first started, while today up to 1,000 children a year are taught in settings across the county. 

Steve Lowe, Headteacher of the Oxfordshire Hospital School, said: "Being the head as the school turns 100 years old is a total honour. Reflecting on the work that the staff have done at the school and the achievements made by its pupils over 100 years is incredibly humbling. 

"There’s no doubt it’s an unusual time to celebrate this centenary, and of course we are disappointed that we can’t have a proper face to face party. But it’s important we come together – albeit virtually – to mark this special occasion.

"The staff and pupils that we have today are a particularly special group of people who have all shown so much determination and resilience to keep the school going in recent months; an achievement that could not have been realised without the support of our friends and colleagues at the hospitals and support services with which we work."

Zoe Pooley, Matron for the Oxford Children’s Hospital, added: "The whole Oxford Children’s Hospital team – and all those working across at the NOC and Horton would like to send a very special birthday message to the school.

"You cannot underestimate how important the school is to our young patients. It is so important in keeping some sense of ‘normal’ in the life of a child sick in hospital.

"Children in hospital just want to get on and do stuff – and yes that even includes their school work. Having teachers who work either at the bedside, in our classrooms or via virtual technology is so important and our hospitals are incredibly lucky to have you here with us.

"So we would like to all wish the Oxfordshire Hospital School a very Happy Birthday – and a hundred more wonderful years." 

As part of the celebrations Oxford Hospitals Charity, which regularly supports the hospital-based school, has funded a commemorative art project that the pupils will be helping to create.

Sarah Vaccari from Oxford Hospitals Charity explains:  "We are very aware of the incredibly positive impact the school has in our hospitals so have been delighted to fund extra support over many years – from creating an additional classroom for teenagers in hospital to use, to funding high tech equipment that helps youngsters connect with the classrooms. During the pandemic we have also purchased items such as individual Lego packs to help maths lessons without risk of cross contamination. 

"We are also really looking forward to seeing this centenary celebrated through an exciting new art project, which the young patients will help create."

With parties being on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the School is holding a virtual get-together to mark this incredible milestone. 

A special centenary song has been created by Community Albums which includes children and staff from the school. During the day patients and pupils will also create birthday cards and beeswax candles and be treated to celebratory cakes.

Artist Davina Drummond has been commissioned by Oxford Hospitals Charity to work with the school and its pupils to create a centenary art project which will be displayed at the hospital later in the year.

Members of staff from the school are also taking on some fundraising challenges to support Oxford Hospitals Charity, Oxford Health Charity and Helen and Douglas House.


Centenary

100 years ago today, a remarkable thing happened in Oxford.

On 5 October 1920, on the site of the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (then known as the 'Wingfield Hospital'), a dedicated group of teachers, led by Dr G R Griddlestone, opened a school to teach children in hospital.

The school was originally based in a ward set aside for children needing orthopaedic treatment - especially those with tuberculosis, and had 14 pupils.

In 1920, the average length of stay in hospital for these children was 130 days - so the provision of schooling was essential for the young inpatients.

The decades that followed saw OHS go from strength to strength. 

Technology has transformed its methods, but its principle always remained the same - that illness or injury should not deprive young people of the vital education they are entitled to.

In 2018, the school even provided one of our young patients with a robot 'buddy' which enabled him to join his friends virtually in the classroom. At the time the school had invested in two robots, thought to be the first used in schools in the UK.

The Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre became part of the Trust in 2011, and young people are now cared for in our dedicated, purpose-built children's hospital on the John Radcliffe Hospital site.

OHS is a constant presence on our wards, and brightly-coloured pictures created by its pupils can be seen in our atrium and in our corridors.

Pictured: OUH nursing staff, Oxford Hospitals Charity staff, and Oxfordshire Hospital School staff celebrate the school's100th birthday.