This invaluable donation promises to be a game-changer for the pupils of this exceptional school, catering to children aged 3-16 with diverse physical, medical, and sensory needs, alongside associated learning difficulties.

Amidst a backdrop of jubilant celebration, Stuart (Sunshine Coach Programme Manager) and Richard (Trusts & Foundations Manager) represented Variety, the Children’s Charity. Alongside Variety, Eastern Counties Educational Trust representatives, and Paul Crawley, Julie Searles, Graham Jordan, and Rob Case from St. James’s Place gathered with staff and students at the Academy. The atmosphere was full of anticipation and joy as everyone came together to mark this momentous occasion.

The new Sunshine Coach has already been used for school trips

Named ‘Bus Lightyear’ by the school, the coach represents not just transportation but a solution for endless opportunities. Its arrival heralds a new era of accessibility and inclusion, empowering children to explore beyond the confines of their school walls. From community outings to college visits, to work experience travel and recreational activities, ‘Bus Lightyear’ promises to be a huge asset to the Academy and its pupils.

During the presentation some of the children serenaded their guests with songs they had composed themselves, and delighted them with bus-shaped biscuits, flowers, cards, paintings, and heartfelt thanks.

The children baked coach-shaped biscuits for the presentation

Emily Webster, Co-Principal at Thomas Wolsey said:

We are very grateful to everyone who has helped provide us with our wonderful new mini-bus, including: Eastern Counties Educational Trust, St. James Place and of course Variety Sunshine Coaches, part of Variety, the Children’s Charity, who provided the bus itself.

The mini-bus is essential to our curriculum offer and allows us to provide a wide variety of rich and engaging learning opportunities right across school.  Without specialist transport, we would be restricted to local visits within walking distance.

Already this week, the mini-bus has been used to transport some of our pupils with more complex needs to the local theatre where they enjoyed an outstanding performance from a specialist theatre company and some of the older pupils to a social enterprise where they took part in an ‘experience of work’ placement. 

Neither of these opportunities would have been achievable without the mini-bus and would have resulted in pupils missing out on valuable opportunities to build self-esteem and well-being, work skills and independent living skills as well as time to have fun and share the awe and wonder of live theatre with their friends and carers.

It is a dream to drive and it’s reassuring to head out on visits knowing that it will be reliable and not break down, as was often the case with our old bus – an added concern when transporting complex and vulnerable youngsters.

We are looking forward to many more trips in the future and are already planning our next adventures!

Rob Case from St. James’s Place said:

It was with great pleasure that we attended Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy for the official handover of the new Sunshine Coach.

We were welcomed by pupils from the school who performed two songs to celebrate the arrival of the new bus and we were informed that the children had named their new mini-bus as ‘Bus Lightyear’ which we were all delighted with.

The children had been busy and had baked some bus shaped biscuits to enjoy with a nice hot drink whilst we were able to engage with a number of pupils before being taken on a guided tour around the school by one of the older students.

Having recently been a parent of a pupil at the school I know only too well how vitally important it is that the school is able to have access to wheelchair accessible vehicles which can be used to support the children throughout their curriculum, visiting local shops, theatres and around the community as well as helping in their transition to further education. My daughter loved her time at the school and flourished under their care – we are delighted that this care will now extend to more field trips to theatres, museums and parks.

This simply would not be possible without the generosity of charities like Variety who supplied the Sunshine Coach and everyone at St. James Place are immensely proud and humbled to see first-hand how coming together and raising vital funds can make a difference and help in our local communities in such a way.

Many thanks for allowing us to join in and meet with the pupils.

It became abundantly clear that this Sunshine Coach is more than just a vehicle; it’s a beacon of opportunity and possibility for the entire Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy family.