FOR many years now local charity The Hedgehogs, who last year distributed more than £55,000 to help local people in need, have included the students at The Abbey School in Farnham among the many groups and individuals they support from the proceeds of their widely varied activities.

The Abbey is a special school with places for just over 100 children all of whom have learning difficulties, social and/or communication disorders; some have physical, hearing and visual impairments as well.

The Abbey provides a happy, safe and stimulating learning environment for children for whom mainstream schools are not appropriate; the school has been judged by Ofsted as ‘outstanding’ in its last three inspections.

The core classroom-based curriculum at the school is enriched with a wide range of learning, vocational and life-skills development opportunities in the wider community.

The Hedgehogs help towards the cost of running the school vehicles. Without the on-going support of organisations like the Hedgehogs, the school would not be able to keep the school minibuses and cars on the road which would mean it would not be possible to offer such a wide range of off-site activities.

To recognise this, one of the school people carriers now sports an attractive new Hedgehogs livery which new chairman, Mike Dunkley, and outgoing chairman, Bob Hockey, came to inspect last week.

Furthermore, this year the school was able to offer a residential opportunity to all of the year 11 students for the first time ever, thanks to the support of a number of local fund-raising organisations including The Hedgehogs.

Headteacher David Jackson explained: “The educational and social value of residential trips to young people is beyond doubt, but especially so for our young people with special needs.

“Many of them have never been away without their families before, which is understandable because they need people around them who understand their needs and that they are more vulnerable to ‘stranger’ and other dangers than they might appear to people who don’t know them well.

“Traditionally opportunities for residential trips for students at The Abbey have been limited to those generously offered to small groups by charitable organisations.

“As our students have a wide range of learning, physical, social communication and other needs it is very challenging to identify suitable all-inclusive opportunities for them.

“Furthermore, because we have only around 100 students altogether, around 20 in each year group, the costs are comparatively high and they need a high adult:student supervision ratio.

“We are determined to offer trips that are accessible to all and are hugely grateful to The Hedgehogs and other donors for making this possible by subsidising some of the costs to our families.”