A former school refuser with autism who spent three years out of education is celebrating after being awarded a prestigious role at SEN school LVS Oxford. Craig Harris, 15, has become Deputy Head Boy at the school to complete a remarkable transformation after being unable to cope with mainstream education.
Craig wrote a formal letter applying for the role of Head Boy last month, stating that “I want to make an impact on the world and inspire other young people with autism…What I want is people with autism to achieve things that others would be too scared to even start, instead of trying to hide it from the world”. His letter in full is below:
Craig was awarded the Deputy Head Boy role which means he will represent the school publicly, help run and stage events, and show guests and prospective new families around LVS Oxford school if they are looking for a more suitable education for a child with autism. The current Head Boy and Head Girl, Charlie Goode and Holly Balchin, even gave a personal tour of LVS Oxford to the Countess of Wessex earlier this year at the school’s official opening.
Just over a year ago Craig and his mother Debbie would never have imagined he would be in a position of authority and studying for qualifications that will give him an independent future. He had missed year 8, year 9 and all but the first few weeks of year 7 at a mainstream school, where they could not cope with his behavioural issues which were driven by being singled out by other children. Debbie said: “Craig wouldn’t interact with anyone due to anxiety. He was petrified of education and used to throw his uniform out of the window. We came for a look around LVS Oxford to see if an SEN school would be the answer and it was – it is a lovely peaceful place with beautiful grounds, and Craig needs a quiet relaxing environment”
A gradual transition at each student’s own pace is one of the hallmarks of an LVS Oxford education, and for Craig this took place over five months with home visits, then trips to school to just visit the therapy room for chats to reduce anxiety, followed by visits for lunch with the therapists to develop trust and finally a transition into lessons. Through commitment and perseverance from all parties, Craig has gone from years locked away in his room to having a future in education and beyond. He has already opted to do a BTEC in Business Studies and is encouraged by the school’s first set of GCSE results this summer where all students gained A* – C grades.
As well as improving Craig’s academic prospects, LVS Oxford is also giving him the life skills he needs to live independently as an adult and building his confidence to deal with social situations, something that Debbie says is also now noticeable at home: “He has changed a lot since joining LVS Oxford last year. He is much more confident and sociable – before he wouldn’t go anywhere, now he comes out with family friends and for meals. He is now part of the family again whereas before he was alienated”.