Scottish Rugby stars Gordon Reid and Richie Vernon today opened a BT-funded multi-sensory room at Park School in Kilmarnock, which will give young people with disabilities the chance to dramatically enhance their learning experience in a stimulating new environment.
The school is the latest to benefit from a partnership between the Lord’s Taverners and BT, who have invested more than £500,000 to create 24 special multi-sensory classrooms across the UK since they joined forces in 2010.
The two Scotland internationals, who also play for Glasgow Warriors, met some of the school’s pupils and staff as they unveiled the new facility today (Wednesday).
Park School caters for more than 100 students aged from five to 18 who have a range of learning and physical disabilities and associated difficulties, such as autism, communication problems and sensory impairment.
Multi-sensory rooms feature a relaxing and stimulating variety of lights, sounds and textures, which help children with physical and learning disabilities to engage in a learning environment that suits their educational needs.
The equipment helps children to develop communication and physical skills, build friendships and boost confidence. It can also improve children’s physical and mental health, help them develop emotional responses and improve basic numeracy and literacy skills.
Park School is the second Scottish school to benefit after a new sensory room was unveiled at St Crispin’s School in Edinburgh in 2012.
Gordon Reid, a prop who’s been capped for Scotland 17 times and has played in the RBS 6 Nations and Rugby World Cup 2015, said: “I’m very proud to be here today unveiling this project, which is a major new asset for children and staff at the school. I hope it brings many new, fun experiences for everyone who uses it.”
Centre Richie Vernon was also selected for the 2015 World Cup squad following a move from the back row to the centre and an international career which has seen him capped 24 times. He added: “It’s great that BT and the Lord’s Taverners are helping to create new opportunities for young people with disabilities in Kilmarnock. This is a fantastic, therapeutic facility for the school.”
Carol-Anne Burns, acting head teacher at Park School, said: “Our new sensory lounge is opening up a whole new world for our pupils.
“It’s providing pupils with a stimulating environment which promotes social interactions, increased concentration, improved creativity and the ability to improve their coordination and motor development – all in an atmosphere where pupils feel mentally and physically relaxed.
“The list of benefits to pupils is endless and we feel privileged to receive the funding from the Lord’s Taverners and BT Scotland to make our sensory lounge possible.”
BT’s partnership with the Lord’s Taverners will see multi-sensory equipment – such as lighting, sound effects, mirrors, bubble tubes, fibre optic multi-coloured strands, soft mattresses, music and aromatic oils – installed in at least 26 schools in the UK, supporting more than 18,000 young people with severe disabilities and communication difficulties across the UK.
One of the main pieces of equipment installed at Park School is a ‘magic carpet’ preloaded with more than 50 interactive applications such as Fish Pond, Tiles, Star Scatter, Piano, Football, Paint and many more. As minimal movement is needed, it’s suitable for all users regardless of ability.
BT has invested £25,000 in the development of the new sensory room at Park School.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “It’s been a pleasure to be here today to witness the positive effect the new BT sensory room will have. I’d like to thank the pupils and staff of Park School for letting us see at first hand the benefits of our long-standing partnership with the Lord’s Taverners. I hope they will find this classroom with a difference a real asset for many years to come.”
Paul Robin, Chief Executive of the Lord’s Taverners, added: “The Lord’s Taverners is dedicated to giving young people a sporting chance so we are delighted to work with BT to try and reach our goal of helping over 18,000 young people with disabilities across the UK by 2020. This new sensory room will benefit the teachers, carers and families of Park School’s students and enhance the learning experience and future development of its pupils.”