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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher

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May 2018

May 2018

15 May 2018

On 24th April a statue of the leading suffragist ...



 

May 2018

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May 2018

15 May 2018

On 24th April a statue of the leading suffragist Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square. The Fawcett statue joins eleven men including Churchill, Mandela and Gandhi. My own Rushall Farm “square” would, yes, have a statue of Nelson Mandela but also Leonard Cheshire, John Wimber and Sir William Benyon.  But a new addition would have to be Dame Steve Shirley.

She arrived in Britain in 1937 from Germany at the age of five, with her nine-year-old sister as child refugees.  They were placed in the care of foster parents living in the Midlands. In 1959 she set up her own company Xansa, specifically to create job opportunities for women with dependents. She predominately employed women, with just three male programmers in the first 300 employees, until the sex discrimination act of 1975.  She retired in 1993 creating 70 millionaires amongst her staff. Her son Giles was autistic and died after a seizure aged 37.

Opposite the Newbury Show ground is Priors Court, a centre for autistic young people, with a staff of 500 and around 70 pupils.  Dame Stephanie Shirley has been the driving force behind the creation of this wonderful resource, donating £30 million, eager to give away with warm hands.  She was committed to providing somewhere Giles would have been understood and able to thrive, and where parents could rest assured they were doing their best.

Every Tuesday a group of twenty 16-year-olds from Castle and Brookfield Special Schools come to the farm. It seems to us that the needs are much greater than they were even 2 years ago. It is a lively group, noisy with oscillating emotions, clumsy at times but caring, engaging but artful.  One tall thin lad pirouettes off ahead on a walk to see the sheep and new born lambs while another is subdued with little communication and a reluctance about movement of any sort, while the totally blind nervously feels his way on uneven ground and touches and smells blossom and an example of an apple. Always a challenge and wanting to learn, we had the opportunity to visit Priors Court and had our eyes opened to a world so different to our own. We came away with a resolve to put into practise many of the simple things we had seen making life easier and more fun for everyone.

John Bishop