Fareham children aim to get to the top of the tree – and win gold

HIGH UP Tree climbing instructor Paul McCathie, left, with Daniel Morse, 17, during his tree climb.  Picture: Sarah Standing (122951-1328)

HIGH UP Tree climbing instructor Paul McCathie, left, with Daniel Morse, 17, during his tree climb. Picture: Sarah Standing (122951-1328)

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IT’S not very often that children get the opportunity to climb trees while at school.

But staff at St Francis Special school in Fareham decided it would be a good activity to take part in to celebrate the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

HANGING AROUND Emma Matthews, nine, during her tree climb. (122951-5414)

HANGING AROUND Emma Matthews, nine, during her tree climb. (122951-5414)

Before the school broke up for the summer holidays, the pupils were celebrating the run-up to the Olympics.

Now, at the start of a new term, they have been celebrating the Paralympics.

The pupils, who all have learning difficulties, have had professional guides come into the school to teach them how to climb trees in a bid to win a gold medal.

Steve Hollinghurst, headteacher at the school, said: ‘A number of our students have been able to do it reasonably independently which is really good.

‘At the moment there is a competition between some of the students to see who is going to get the gold which is for the one who gets the highest up the tree.

‘For kids that have got quite complex disabilities it’s a real achievement for them to take part – even if that means they only rise a little bit above the ground.

‘It’s quite unique for them. We wanted to do something that wasn’t a traditional sport.

‘It gives them a massive amount of encouragement and self esteem. It develops their confidence.

‘It’s mainly about confidence, team work and trust.’

Mr Hollinghurst added that it is vital that the children have an understanding of the Paralympic games.

He said: ‘It’s especially important that children with disabilities are involved in a positive way.

‘In a practical way as well because kids sometimes find it difficult to spend lots of time watching TV.

‘When they are actually engaged then it becomes real.’

Children took part in a variety of activities in addition to the tree climbing.

They also swam in the hydrotherapy pool and took part in sensory trails around the school grounds.

And pupils baked some cakes.

Mr Hollinghurst added: ‘I thought it was going to be a difficult start of term but it’s allowed the kids to bond in their new classes.

‘And the staff have bonded with them too.

‘It’s allowed people to develop relationships which is really good.

‘They have absolutely loved it. All the kids have been saying “I’m going to get higher than you”, because they want to win the gold.’

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