Jennifer Brown

Most people have never been to a special school and have no idea what they’re like. Often there is a fear of the things we don’t know about. The public sometimes avoid talking to people with learning disabilities because they don’t know what to expect. That’s why we wanted to educate people about what special schools are really like.

I would like to say that the community is feeling more comfortable with seeing people with disabilities, but change has been slow over the last 50 years. A lot of people are still fearful and unsure about being with people with Learning Disabilities. I hope that our project has shown what special schools are like and particularly that you can learn a lot from the pupils there.

The kids who go to special schools said to us that: “People think we are babies, and we can’t do what mainstream kids can” and: “People think we are being naughty, but we don’t like being in trouble all the time.”

This is a big problem for them. No one should have to be made to feel like babies. I have had that myself over the years and it’s not nice because it gets your self-confidence down and you feel as though you have no voice. My quote has already been: “The greatest disability of all is those who don’t respect or treat us the same way as everyone else”.

I feel that a special school gives you a much better life than in mainstream, because there is more support from the teachers in smaller classes. You can work to your best ability without feeling pressure because you know your classmates are all in the same boat. You can also build up trust with your teacher and feel confident in asking for help. It does mean that, when it’s time to leave and that support is taken away, it is hard to cope with life outside of special schools.

I think acceptance is slowly changing, with having quiet times in shops for people with Autism and sensory needs, as well as special showings in cinemas, but there’s still a long way to go.

I feel that disability awareness training in employment, colleges etc. can help students easily move from special school/college into an employment role. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, our students have so many goals in life. I really hope that their hopes for the future are achieved and more people with Learning Disabilities get jobs once they leave college.

The rise of social media means that there an extra way for people to have a voice and be heard. Also, a lot of actors with a disability use social media. Before the internet and social media apps it was harder to get information and support, but unfortunately there is now a lot of disability hate crime, because it can also be used to say negative comments, so some people avoid it.

I hope our project raises awareness of the positive aspects of special schools and the abilities of the students. I also hope it raises awareness of the difficulties that still exist 50 years after we got the right to an education.


The school’s name comes from the place where it first opened. In 1970, Fox Hollies Special School opened in Acocks Green.

The school was very well connected in the local community and had help in fundraising from the local police and social clubs.

It was a small building with all the classrooms based around a central hall area, where everyone could meet.

Now Fox Hollies shares a campus with Queensbridge School in Moseley.

It was also hoped that this would help overcome barriers:

“Pupils from the two schools are taught to relate positively to each other in a way that benefits everyone.”

There is a sensory room as well as an outdoor space which is used for gardening and playing.

Both schools had a strong focus on the performing arts, so they thought it would be good to work more closely together.

At Fox Hollies, Luci, Callum, Nathan, Reece and Josh did a brilliant job of helping us to collect stories and photos that we could use. They really taught us a lot about the school.


Mayfield is the second biggest special school in Birmingham.

For some of the students, English is not their first language, which adds extra difficulties for them in learning.

Nowadays, the school is much more strictly organised and professional, but it still has a very positive and friendly feel and a strong focus on performing arts. 

Mayfield has seen a lot of change, but still has strong links to its history through the dedicated long-serving staff.

At Mayfield, we had a wonderful time working with Hassanain, Shakur, Rashaan, Eesha and Joshua. They were full of enthusiasm, collecting a large number of surveys and recording some fantastic interviews.

dame ellen

This school will celebrate its 120th birthday in 2021 and it has changed a lot over that time!

It is now a primary school, but until the early 1990s, it was also a secondary school for boys.

All the classes are named after different animals.

Everyone talks of the welcoming, friendly atmosphere that is still there even as the school has got bigger. 

A new build extension (The Ellen Building) was opened on Monday 6th June 2016. It has a computing room and cooking room.

The school has had problems with flooding, which is why it’s been hard to find any old photos.

As well as all the modern facilities, the school has some lovely green spaces where the children do forest school activities. They also have lots of space to hold fetes and parties for the children’s families. 

The enthusiasm of all the pupils and staff for the school is clear to see.


Thanks to Amy, Matthew, George and Nathan at Dame Ellen Pinsent school for their excellent work in collecting stories there. Despite being our youngest group, they were great interviewers.


The Birmingham Crippled Children’s Association helped to set the school up. Their focus was mainly on children with physical disabilities.

In the early days, facilities were very basic. They had horse drawn ambulances to bring the children to school and there was no hot water.

The new school building was built in the 1960s, although many parts of it have been extended and improved since then. 

Victoria is now part of a federation of schools and colleges, sharing a campus with Victoria College and Longwill school for Deaf Children in Northfield. Cherry Oak Primary School is also part of the federation.

For those who visit the school for the first time, it can seem like quite a maze trying to find your way round it. Everything is on one level, so it is accessible for the many wheelchair users.

They have a swimming pool, sensory room, and lots of play equipment.

The school has a very active Friends of Victoria group, who have raised lots of money to pay for new facilities and trips for the students. 

The school first opened in 1905 on Jenkins Street in Small Heath.

After only four years, the school moved to Little Green Lane, where it must have shared the site with Dame Ellen Pinsent School.

In 1964, they moved to a new purpose-built school on Bell Hill in Northfield, which was named The Victoria School for Physically Handicapped Children.

Our Victoria group were inspirational. Harry, Taylor, Josh, Aioslin, Amaan and Yash were superb ambassadors for the project in the school. They made sure everyone knew about it, collected lots of surveys and did a great job of interviewing.