In 2019, cameras first captured the reality of life in Britain’s biggest special education school - Penarth’s Ysgol y Deri.
In September of 2021, the cameras returned for this new series of A Special School, capturing the remarkable spirit of a school that provides a place for fun, laughter and achievement to pupils living with a diverse range of disabilities.
Whilst Headteacher Chris Britten looks forward to the start of a new school year, and the pupils returning, he also recalls the pressures the pandemic put on the staff. Although many schools closed during the pandemic, Ysgol y Deri remained open, providing support for children of key workers.
Excitement levels are high for the first school trip in two years – starting at Cardiff Castle, then on to Barry Island. Trips can also be a stressful experience, and not just for the children. This is the first trip that newly-qualified teacher Joshua will lead. He admits to being nervous, and jokes that he’s been counting the children every step of the way so as not to lose anyone.
Back at the school, behaviour support teacher Tom checks in with a sixth-former who can struggle to control his emotions and temper. After an outburst later that morning sees the pupil escaping the class, Tom and fellow staff members must act quickly to defuse the situation.
Headteacher Chris Britten explains, “What we’ve learnt is you need to stop watching behaviour and start listening to it. Because what those children are doing is communicating with you in the only way they know how at that moment.”
Another pupil that Tom works closely with is Keelan – ‘the king of the corridor’. Keelan thrives on being in the corridor. The staff have put in place a system to help Keelan start his day on a positive note, with the ultimate aim of getting him back in the classroom.
A Special School is filmed in partnership with The Open University and airs Monday 20th February on BBC Two.