Frances and Michael Holmes have produced a number of excellent and popular books over the last few years charting the social history of Norwich during the last century, often drawing on interviews with people who were ‘there when it happened’. This booklet, charting the history of the Clare School in Norwich, follows that same pattern, using interviews with former pupils as well as the school’s own historic diaries and other contemporary reports and documents. It also presents a fascinating insight into the development of special schools and changes in attitude towards children with special needs.
The origins of the present day Clare School can be traced back to 1907, when a special class was opened at Colman Road School for 19 ‘mentally defective’ pupils. Of course, today we would find the term somewhat offensive, but the authors explain how the terminology has evolved over the lifetime of the school. Over the next few years the concept of Open Air Schools was developed and the special class first moved to Eaton Road, and then back to temporary buildings on the site of the present school in Colman Road. To meet demand another open air school, Clare House, was established in Sewell Park.
In 1928 a new building in Colman Road opened to accommodate 200 pupils, and continued to provide for a variety of special needs on the site until the 1960s, when it was redeveloped and renamed as The Clare School. Today around 110 children attend, with similar numbers of staff. Rebecca Wicks, the present headteacher, explains ” We educate those children with the most complex needs and who are the most vulnerable in Norfolk. Our children are physically disabled, medically complicated and have hearing, sight or sensory impairment.” The school was not designed for such pupils: “Some parts of the school date back to 1929 – and it shows. Our Local Authority funding covers essentials but we have to raise money for all the extras that make Clare School such a special place.”
This super 50 page booklet is being issued as a fund raiser for the school with ALL proceeds going to fund projects benefitting the children. Neither the authors, nor Bittern Books, are taking any profit from the sales, and print costs have been underwritten.