Rach, Development Director, UK & Ireland, for Mountpark visited the school, along with Variety, the Children’s Charity’s Corporate Partnership Manager, Matt Gray. It was a fantastic opportunity to see the difference a Sunshine Coach can make to children’s education.

Briarwood Special School caters to children and young people aged 3-19 with Severe and Profound Learning Difficulties, Complex Needs, Autism and Sensory Impairment. Three quarters of Briarwood’s students communicate in ways that are not verbal, and more than half need specialist behaviour support, while a fifth are challenged by life limiting conditions. 47% of students live in the 10% most deprived communities in Bristol.

With five separate buildings across three locations in Bristol, Briarwood needed a Sunshine Coach to help transport students between their sites to give them access to the different facilities. With their new coach, students are able to visit the hydrotherapy pool based at the secondary school, the new immersive and interactive Gruffalo-themed library and soft play at the junior school, and other facilities across the different sites.

Briarwood Special School received their Sunshine Coach in May this year, when Variety Ambassador, Tessa Sanderson CBE, and Managing Director of Mountpark, Philip O’Callaghan, handed over the keys to the new coach.

Rach from Mountpark and Matt had the opportunity to see the school and speak to staff and students about their new coach. The Sunshine Coach is not only used to get students between the school’s sites and to physiotherapy, but it also helps them get out into their local community and build their social skills and confidence.

Alice Salt, Office Manager, UK & Ireland, Mountpark, said:

Mountpark has supported Variety for over 20 years, and we are thrilled to have helped donate a Sunshine Coach to Briarwood School this year. All students deserve the opportunity to be educated outside of the classroom, and it has been so rewarding to speak to teachers and pupils at Briarwood and learn about the impact of this coach. We hope that this Sunshine Coach will continue to enable students at Briarwood School to explore, develop their skills and get involved in their local community.

Nicolle Deighton, Executive Headteacher, at Briarwood Special School, said:

Having our own minibus enables us to enhance curriculum and enrichment opportunities for our pupils, particularly after the additional challenges of the last couple of years where the impact of Covid-19, combined with our pupils’ multiple vulnerabilities, has severely limited opportunities for pupils to integrate within the community. Additionally, the complexity of our pupils’ needs means they find it increasingly challenging to access transport facilities.

Access to a minibus enables us to make a wide range of off-site links with organisations, employers, and work placements in support of our careers, employability and preparing for adulthood curriculum. The use of a Sunshine Coach ensures we can carefully plan fun trips for our pupils that reward and celebrate their achievements, also broadening their life experiences. This includes visits to the library, shops, parks, sport centres, zoos, animal therapy sessions, museums, open spaces and much more, creating meaningful links between curriculum/life skills learning and the application of this to everyday life outside of our school context.

Matt Gray, Corporate Partnerships Manager at Variety, the Children’s Charity, said:

We are extremely grateful to Mountpark for all their support over the years. It was great to meet Mountpark and for us to both see firsthand the difference their support has made to the children of Briarwood Special School. We feel privileged to have such dedicated corporate supporters. Mountpark have helped improve the lives of countless children over the last two decades, and we cannot thank them enough for their continued support.