From Saturday 14 August, staff and volunteers warmly welcomed 21 children and young people with special needs, aged 12-19, to participate in the St John’s School Community Holiday, a seven-day residential holiday hosted by the School. They were cared for by 42 present and former pupils, assisted by a small external team, all of whom are volunteers.

The children and young people enjoyed a fantastic range of activities, including games, arts and crafts, swimming, a fashion show, a magician, and a disco on the School site. Off-site visits included cycling in Bushy Park, visiting Hobbledown Farm in Epsom, a trip to the seaside at Littlehampton, and a day at Chessington World of Adventures. Many of the participants have enjoyed previous holidays at St John’s, and we were delighted to welcome five new guests this year.

The holiday’s registered manager, Neil Whitmore, a teacher at the School, commented:

‘It’s been great to re-establish the holiday again after cancelling the 2020 edition due to the pandemic. It’s wonderful to see the children and young people enjoying themselves, as well as the volunteers gaining so much from the experience.’ The holiday was safely conducted in accordance with Covid-19 procedures, including regular lateral flow testing for staff members.

Feedback from the parents of the children and young people has been wonderful. One parent commented that, ‘Words can’t quite express our gratitude as parents, for giving children like ours the opportunity to feel so included, accepted and special, while allowing them to try new experiences in such a safe and cared for environment.’ Another wrote, ‘I cannot believe this week was my daughter’s last St John’s Holiday! Having been there from the start in 2014, seven years on, and it just gets better every year. My daughter will miss it terribly but what a fantastic opportunity you give our children and us!!’. The impact on the young volunteers is also significant, with feedback including, ‘It’s been great to see everybody again and wonderful to have such a strong sense of community.’ Another wrote, ‘I really loved it. And I will definitely apply again next year.’

Taking place at St John’s School and making use of the School’s boarding houses, the holiday allows parents and carers a week of much-needed respite safe in the knowledge that their children are being fully cared for, supported and having a fantastic time.