REVIEW: A Special School

  Posted: 15.09.20 at 10:32 by Alex Jones

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When the BBC airs a documentary based in one’s own town, a local reporter is somewhat obliged to give it a watch.

But it didn’t take long for a large and irrepressible lump to appear in my throat.

Just three minutes into A Special School - which captures day-to-day life at Ysgol Y Deri in Penarth - headteacher Chris Britten announces Richard Lewis has been elected Head Boy.

Amidst genuine applause and a warm embrace, Mr Britten asks Richard how he feels:

“I feel loved.”


(Photo credit: The BBC)

Perhaps I’m more affected by this sort of thing than most.

Later in the episode, Mr Britten says: “When I first came into the special sector, people told me a lot about what children and young people couldn’t do. And I felt that they knew what they couldn’t do. I always wondered what they might do.”

This really hit home. A person very close to me attended special school, which took a rather scared and confused boy and helped turn him into a charming, joyful and successful young man. The value of places like Ysgol Y Deri really cannot be overstated.

They show young people what they’re capable of, which makes the world appear a less scary place and helps them to reach their full potential.

“Seeing him zip wire is not something we thought in a million years we’d see him do. So that is just amazing - it’s a miracle,” says Lynsey Summers after her son returns from a school trip.

(Photo credit: The BBC)


But it’s not just a tear-fest. There are moments of genuine humour in there too, like when teenager Joseph Webber takes on the role of narrator while trying his hand at archery, or when Amy grows visibly bored of counting in woodwork class:

“1, 2, 3… what’s next?” says the teacher.

“Dinner?” replies Amy.

The most prominent emotion one feels when watching A Special School, though, is optimism.

This wonderful documentary - which is in essence an account of the unconditional love and warmth shared between parents, teachers and students at Ysgol Y Deri - urges its audience to become better, more patient people in turn.

A Special School provides faith in humanity at a time when that seems to be in short supply. It makes you proud to be in Penarth.

Watch Mondays at 8:30PM on on BBC Wales or stream here:

A Special School

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