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TX: 14.04.04 – SPECIAL SCHOOLS – Part 5 – Cademuir School For Gifted Children

PRESENTER: JOHN THORNE


THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY

THORNE
Children who are exceptionally gifted are not defined, in the UK at least, as having special needs but these children often need help dealing with their abilities and also some of the learning difficulties that can commonly run alongside them. In the latest of my reports into schools for children with various special needs I went to south west Scotland, to Cademuir, a country house school for gifted children run by Robert Mulvey.

MULVEY
It's described officially as a baronial residence which was built by in fact a businessman from Manchester who at the time thought it would be rather nice to have a property in Scotland, rather like the Queen. And so decided to build this rather pleasant building but in fact only ever used it for holidays.

BAGPIPE PLAYING

THORNE
It's difficult to sweet talk a frozen reed into tuneful action on a bitter cold Dumfriesshire morning. The piper is a schoolboy called RobinNewler, who comes from Germany, he wears the full Highland regalia, including a green Douglas tartan.

BAGPIPE PLAYING

MEWLER
I started in Germany.

THORNE
Where did you first hear the bagpipes then?

MEWLER
At my old school because we had somebody from England coming there every weekend and playing.

THORNE
What is it particularly about the bagpipes that you like because lots of people say the noise is not very pleasant to the human ear?

MEWLER
I think it's quite a nice tune, it's difficult to play which is basically more interesting to me.

THORNE
Robin is a student a Cademuir international school, a last chance special school for gifted children, deep in the isolation of Robbie Burns country. It's a rescue package for high ability learners and underachievers with high potential, says Robert Mulvey, the school founder, who shows me around the rambling Victorian country house.

Is it a practical building for a school?

MULVEY
We've tried to make it so, that's as close as I can say.

THORNE
Cademuir grew out of summer schools that Robert Mulvey ran for dyslexic youngsters and others with special learning and behaviour problems.

MULVEY
There were many children who were intrinsically very bright indeed but who were not being fully appreciated for their proper worth because they had conditions such as dyslexia and allied conditions, it simply meant in practical terms that the children were being held back - they were not achieving their potential.

THORNE
Cademuir is small and flexible, the social, emotional and educational go together. It's geared to the Scottish exam system but three or four to a class is standard, one-to-one teaching common.

ACTUALITYTEACHERWhat is it you're doing just now? What are you writing?

STUDENTI'm making a plan how to write later on.

TEACHERThe main points.

STUDENTI'm finding out the main points of the report. From this report write my own report later.

MULVEY
There is no elitism in any sense - either social or academic. The children here blend seamlessly, they come from a wide variety of ethnic and national backgrounds, at the moment we're 70% European with the remaining number from the United Kingdom and from all social walks of life.

THORNE
But it is a private school, your fees are 21,000 did I see for full board or what have you, are your doors open to people that can't afford this sort of specialist school?

MULVEY
Our doors are open of course but unfortunately we have to pay our way, so somebody has to provide the fees. In Europe there is, shall we say, a greater tradition among local authorities to provide for the special needs of the children in their care and high ability is counted as a special need in Germany, under the Children's Act, less so in this country. In this country the problems have to be different - they have to be social problems - so there are fewer children here who are able to benefit. So it is a limiting factor and it's something which is very distressing.

THORNE
Dr Jo Francis is the school's director of teaching and learning, fashioning the individual timetables for each student.

FRANCIS
We get children here who have got really depressed, some of them suicidal, some of them are school refusers and we've got to try and bring them back into education and cater for their needs. And one of the things with the Scottish system in particular we can be really flexible, so it means that if they're very good at a subject we can concentrate on that and they can be doing highers in say in languages and standard grades, which are the lower levels, in some of the other subjects. So that they have the flexibility and they find that they can cope with that and suddenly education isn't such a nasty piece of work and I think this really - this is the thing we turn them around really, given them a chance again.

YARLES
I don't like to use the word un-normal but that's what the place is. We're not the sort of people who would go to a normal school.

THORNE
That's Sam Yarles, now in his fourth year at the international school.

YARLES
All of us have our little problems - learning difficulties and that sort of thing. So only really I'd suggest the school to people who could fit into the background because it's not just a normal boarding school because it's really a school that's for people who haven't fitted in to previous schools.

MULVEY
Educationally we're certainly swimming against the tide because nowadays in education everything has been reduced to the same for all and the same can't apply to all because individuals themselves are not alike. Many individuals have very, very special needs and those who have a very high intelligence, those who have a very pronounced disorder require a type of specialised treatment that just cannot be provided in a mainstream setting.

THORNE
The personal teaching methods suit Anna Koura from France.

KOURA
I like the students here, here the teachers know how we are, so they know how to teach us. Other people just think different from people in France or in Germany and I felt they would suit me better because it's just - you think about different things, that's my feelings and some people just don't understand that and here it's easier to find people who actually understand you.

BAGPIPE PLAYING

THORNE
The strains from our piper Robin Mewler, struggling against the Solway cold, drift across the bonnie Maxwellton Braes made famous in the traditional Scottish song Annie Lawrie. Robert Mulvey says the setting is ideal for learning.

MULVEY
If you were to be here early in the morning you'd see the dozens and dozens of rabbits, you'd see the roe deer coming across, you might hear the peacocks - it's all part of an environment which is calm, which is peaceful and conducive to restoring the soul.

THORNE
The founder of Cademuir Robert Mulvey ends my tuneful school report.


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