Fifty years ago Peter White, at the age of eleven, left home for Worcester College. Then it was a residential school for blind and partially sighted boys. He had a love-hate relationship with it, but freely admits now that it changed his life and gave him the tools to compete in a tough world. Throughout the last academic year, Peter has returned to Worcester, to follow his twenty-first century successors: seven eleven- and twelve-year-olds, who have come to the school from a variety of backgrounds.
Much has changed. In the 1960's it was almost universally assumed that blind children would be educated together; now its far more common for them to attend mainstream schools. Worcester, now known as New College, is still residential; but pupils live in small houses, not in the institution itself, where they learn to cook, care for their clothes, and generally look after themselves. Its co-educational, and children go home far more often. Throughout the year, through a mixture of exchanged letters, and frequent visits, Peter and the current year seven pupils have been getting to know each other and comparing their experiences of school.
Nothing's been off-limits: the pupils have discussed homesickness, getting lost, bullying, a case of racism; and how the experience of living at New College is changing them. We've not only heard from the pupils; but staff, house-parents, and the children's families. They have proved to be a very varied, and engaging group of youngsters, who have talked very honestly about their experiences: Rufus: self-contained, fascinated by technology and delighted with Peter's tales of bad behaviour back in the sixties; Grace; clever, full of common-sense, but suffering badly from missing home and family. And then there's Zoey, the form all-rounder; bookworm, athlete, and learning to play the organ: Ali, obsessed with rap and the London street life he has left: but not quite as tough as he would like to make out; William, who is struggling to make friends and settle in and Jess, who describes daily dramas as she gets lost, battles with bees and plans mammoth sleep-overs at her London home.
From Worcester with Love follows the group through the year, as work gets harder, and the novelty wears off. Listeners will be able to track the engaging ins and outs as Will and Ali attempt to settle their differences and to find out how Angel, who revealed at the beginning of her year that she'd never had real friends before, copes with living away from home. Meanwhile Jess is considering whether to swap the hothouse atmosphere of a residential special school for the familiarities of home and the more Laissez-faire attitude of her local comprehensive. Peter follows what happens and is given pause for thought by an old school friend who actually works at the school today. How have things changed and what might life be like for those starting their secondary education at the blind school which played such an important role in shaping Peter's life.
Producer: Susan Mitchell