The Mulberry Bush School was established in 1948 by childcare expert Barbara Dockar-Drysdale; the school is a charitable- not for profit organisation, that works with some of themost distressed and vulnerable primary school-age children in the UK. The children who are referred are labelled 'uncontrollable' or 'uneducable' but in reality are damaged thanks to a series of bad experiences in infancy and early childhood: extreme violence, neglect, bereavement and emotional, physical or sexual abuse;they have already excluded from several schools and have usually been disruptingtheir communities for a long time. The childrenmay have witnessed things which no childshould see and it is likely they will have assumed excessive responsibility;without intervention many would probably end up in prison. Theyappear to be out of control and impossible to teach but, given theirvery difficult individual circumstances, it is surprising that they havemanaged to cope, one way or another, for so long.
Situated outside Oxford, the Mulberry Bush accepts up to 31 children annually aged 5-13 from all over England and is the only school which has living accommodation and therapy all on one site. The tender ages of 5-13 are most receptive to change, after years of being ostracised by society teenagers are likely to feel empty inside, to fill the void they turn to drugs, drink, theft and hanging out with rebels. The school provides specialist residential therapeutic care, treatment and education for younger children made vulnerable by their severe anti-social, emotional and behavioural issues and lack of trust.
The philosophy of the Mulberry Bush is centred on the belief that children should return to their families, school staff work closely with the whole family, to help them all with the changes needed to enable them to live together.
With great patience, reassurance and the skilled care provided by specialist staff, trained with safe handling techniques, these children are gradually encouraged to a stage where, they can learn to respect themselves and trust others, establish ordinary relationships then begin tolearn. Their appetite for self-improvement increasesdramatically and the success rate of the school is 100%, all children go on to an appropriate local school, 93%are successfully re-integrated into a suitable family and most of the children are ready to re-join theircommunity and live a rewarding life.
Despite being a national resource,costing local authorities £187,000 per child per year, the school receives no centralgovernment funding. The philosophy of the Mulberry Bush is centred on the belief that children should return to their families, school staff work closely with the whole family, to help them all with the changes needed to enable them to live together.
Over the past few years The Mulberry Bush have seen an increase in the breakdown of foster placements and in the number of referrals received where the original family cannot be found or sustained. The school have introduced plans to build a new self-contained house, expertly staffed and within the Mulberry Bush site. Hope House, with eight bedrooms, is where children can spend time with their prospective familiestoease the transition from the safe environment of school to the environment of a new foster family.
On Thursday evening at no 10 Downing Street Samantha Cameron, wife of Prime Minister David Cameron who is a patron of The Mulberry Bush, invited the school’s trustees, friends, celebrities and other beneficiaries of the ICAP Charity Day to a reception where Michael Spencer, Chief Executive of ICAP and legendary philanthropist, presented all the beneficiaries with a handsome cheque. Hope House is now a big step nearer completion.