Welcome to the first in a series of blogs where Livability Staff Recognition Award winners introduce us to the service they work at. First up is Chris Tarring, who has worked at Livability Victoria School as receptionist for 18 years and recently won the Amazing Contribution to Education Award.
How many students do you have at Victoria School?
We’ve got 99*, aged from three to nineteen, with a wide range of physical and learning disabilities.
What does the school day look like?
Nearly all our students arrive by school transport, travelling from all over Dorset, Hampshire and elsewhere. The day starts at 9am, lunch is at 12pm and lessons finish at 3pm.
How is learning organised?
Classes are small, up to nine students, with a mix of ages in each, according to their educational needs. We use a differentiated learning approach, which means that education is tailored for each child. One class, for example might be for sensory learners, who explore a subject with touch, or by using different objects.
Tell us about the breadth of education the school offers?
There are lots of exciting ways to learn here; for instance, we have our own Vibe Radio station, so when we recently celebrated World Book Day, students produced a programme discussing the books and the characters they have read about. Music is important here. We have a piece of kit called a Soundbeam, which enables students to create their own music, controlling the device in a way that suits them, which might be a head switch for example. There is always plenty going on in our Art and Sports departments too. Find out more > www.livability.org.uk/blog/education/livability-celebrates-neurodivergency
What do you think makes Victoria School stand out?
Well, the students get the whole package here – learning, care, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, nursing care – so they feel safe, and that comes from the passion of the staff. Parents often say, especially when they first visit, that it’s such a happy place, and it is.
What special memories do you have?
I used to drive the school minibus and went all over the country and even to France, on residential trips with the students. I was honoured to meet HRH Princess Anne at a recent Livability event (link to the news article) in London and got to speak to her, so I had to learn to curtsy pretty quickly! That was a lovely day.
How did you feel when you heard you’d won the Amazing Contribution award?
I didn’t know what to say! I felt really honoured – it was ‘wow!’
You’ve been at Victoria a long time – why do you stay?
I love it – I never know what I’ll be dealing with each day. I love meeting the parents, the staff are great and it’s such a friendly place. Don’t tell anyone but I’m over pensionable age, but if you love something, why leave?
School Business Manager, Simon Walden, explains why he nominated Chris for a the award: ‘Chris is the first person everyone meets on their way into school, and her positive greeting sets the tone for the day. I nominated Chris because of all the extra work that she does in support of the school and its students, from volunteering to drive the minibus for trips across the country and France, through to organising major fundraising events every year. She co-leads the school’s prayer group and she’s there in support of staff whenever they need a bit of advice or words of comfort. All this builds strength and resilience in the staff community and ultimately makes us better as a school in supporting our students, which is the reason we’re all here.’
‘Every contact with the school, by phone or in person, goes via Chris which makes her the face of the school. Another thing which makes her such an asset is, alongside that professionalism you expect from a good school receptionist, is a current of care and support, whether it be staff, parents or students and we all need that support and care sometimes. And it’s there, without question, from Chris.’
*Correct as of May 2022