Will you indulge me for a moment or two? I want to tell you about my son George. He is 14 and without doubt one of the most popular people I know. Walking to school or in the local community is an experience punctuated by people saying “hello George”, high-fiving him or giving him a wave. It’s the same in school, with pupils and teacher alike. At a recent party we attended, where many of the teachers were mutual friends of the host, one of them whispered to me how he is “universally loved by everyone at school”.
He is one of the most hard working, committed, passionate and fearless people. His school reports are glowing – he is ahead of all his peers, often top of his class and his attitude to learning scores are off the scale. Hopes are very high for him exceeding expectations in his GCSEs and he is world class at spelling.
He has been on the school council in primary and secondary school. He was voted on by the other kids. He is currently a school representative for PE in high school. As a result he gets to sit on interview panels for the some key appointments and also talk to OFSTED about what it is like to be a pupil when they do their inspections. His insights are always important and usually wise.
Being good at school attracts rewards, which results in trips to theme parks like Flamingoland and Alton Towers. He loves dangerous rollercoasters and hair raising rides – as well as zip wires and high ropes.
As well as being a star pupil, he engages in a number of school clubs and out of school activities. He is a member of the school choir and the school performing arts group as well as Stage Door theatre school. He has performed a number of concerts and plays. As part of the school climbing team he has competed in and won events – as celebrated in awards presented by Johnny Brownlee at the school sports awards. He plays Tennis on a Sunday and sails on the local tarn in the holidays with the Sailing Club.
He dances at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance every Friday with his dance group Me2, who have wowed audiences at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Phoenix Dance Studios, the Audrey Burton Theatre and elsewhere. His stage group performs shows at local theatres in which he sings and acts with a passion and some talent.
He is great at volunteering too. Every week he marshals at the Woodhouse Moor Parkrun, supporting the runners and helping with the arrangements. He was co-director this week and named junior volunteer of the year in 2014. When he marshals other races for local clubs he knows so many of the runners he gets a bit hoarse from cheering to spur them on.
Outside of this, his teenage boy tendencies mean he is glued to his ipad or the computer when he can be, playing games or researching films on ImDB, which he loves to watch at the cinema with his mates or buy on DVD. He is pretty cool and the dance teacher tells me how popular he is with the girls. Theatre and musicals also form part of his obsessions and he can tell you just about everything you ever wanted to know….
I am so proud of him I could burst.
George would not be who he is today without the support of Leeds Mencap.
They were the ones who helped us in the hospital the day after he was born, with kindness and positivity.
They were the ones who provided the space for other parents like us to share a coffee and a chat and get informal peer support.
They were the ones who helped with speech therapy, portage and transition support for inclusion at nursery, at primary school and elsewhere.
They laid the foundations for us as parents and for George to transform from being a lovely baby into the success he is today.