The saddest part about this project was hearing about the problems for pupils when they’re not in the safe environment of special schools. This video explains more:

We did questionnaires at the schools. This is what the students said they think of people’s attitudes towards them:


“They don’t understand that we have a voice.”


Changing perceptions of people with disabilities


“People think we are babies and we can’t do what mainstream kids can.”

“Because we’re in a wheelchair, people assume that we don’t have thoughts, but look at Steven Hawkins.”

“People think we’re being naughty, but we don’t like being in trouble all the time.”

Leaving school can be a very difficult time for students and their parents:


Former teacher at Victoria School

“It was devastating
for them when they had to leave. They were out of childcare social services and into adult social services. School was everything to them and their parents.”


Former pupil at Dame Ellen Pinsent School

“I went to college, but I got picked on there and they didn’t do anything to help me. I had work experience in a canteen, but I lost all my confidence.”


Former parent at Fox Hollies School

“It was a real wrench when Hayley left, because you felt as though you’d lost half your family. We went back to a few jumble sales, but it just wasn’t the same.”


Heritage Project Assistant

My quote has always been: “The greatest disability of all is those who don’t respect or treat us the same way as everyone else”. 

There are now 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 can help these students to get jobs. Our students have so many goals in life. I really hope that their hopes for the future are achieved.

We need to raise 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.