“No net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will…” Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre 1847)
In the 1830s, the great novelist Charlotte Brontë was schooled at Roe Head, near Mirfield in the heart of West Yorkshire. She returned a few years later as a teacher and her experience inspired some famous scenes from her magnum opus, Jane Eyre.
Today, Roe Head is a school where children with profound and multiple disabilities are taught and cared for. All pupils and residents have speech, language and communication difficulties and most are non-verbal communicators. But in the spirit of Charlotte Brontë, everyone is treated as an individual and encouraged to be creative, independent and make choices.
Hollybank Trust Chief Executive, Pam King, recalls how the charity grew into an organisation with over 500 employees and more than 100 children and adults in its care: “Hollybank Trust started life as a school for children with disabilities in Huddersfield in 1954. By 1990 we wanted to expand and build additional accommodation, so we moved to Roe Head in Mirfield. In 2004 we made a commitment to look after our pupils for life, so that they could continue living with their peers in a caring, familiar environment.
“The Trust has bought, adapted and purposebuilt various properties, and now cares for 77 adults in eight residential homes, both on the main site and in West and South Yorkshire. We employ a team of physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, social care staff, teachers and assistants to ensure that everyone can lead fulfilling lives in a safe, friendly and loving environment.
Using assistive technology in both the school and adult services, we can give individuals greater independence and encourage engagement in their everyday activities – such as switching on a television or kettle, listening to music or using a computer.”
A purpose-built therapy centre at Roe Head includes a multi-sensory hydrotherapy pool and a spa pool, along with facilities for providing rebound therapy and hippotherapy, where the body responds to simulated horse movements.
In the beautiful grounds outside, everyone can appreciate our sensory gardens with adapted playground equipment, enjoy walks among flowers and trees, help maintain vegetable gardens, learn how to plant in a polytunnel and engage in plenty of outdoor events during the warmer months.
As they get older, residents can take part in a programme of meaningful adult activities that include various work and therapy-based pursuits, artistic endeavours, cultural trips and forms of relaxation. Hollybank takes a personcentred approach to both its school and adult education programmes. All participants are profiled and carefully monitored to make sure they develop and fulfil their potential.
The Hollybank Artists meet each week and create works of art to exhibit and sell; many of their works now hang in boardrooms across the county. Another group carries out commissions for wedding favours, thus affording them an insight into the world of work.
The Trust is a forward-thinking organisation that is always looking to its next project.
Our latest development, consisting of three eco-homes accommodating 24 adults and six children, welcomed its first residents in the New Year. Each en suite bedroom leads onto an attractive patio, with farreaching views across the Pennines. To ensure a smooth move to the new buildings, a mock-up room was built to help future residents understand their new environment and choose their preferred colour schemes and fittings.
Pam adds: “Some pupils have increasingly high medical needs, so the Trust has now registered its largest adult home as a care home with nursing support. Despite all the additional places that we can now provide, demand is still exceeding our current provision and we operate a waiting list.
“This year we are building a new children’s home with light, airy living rooms and spacious modern, en suite bedrooms with hoists. We will then be able to satisfy some of the demand for short breaks for both children and adults.
“We believe that Charlotte Brontë would have been proud of Hollybank Trust’s achievements.”
Hollybank Trust is always looking for supporters and fundraisers to continue offering, as the organisation’s slogan puts it, a good ‘quality of life… for life’. For more information, contact 01924 490 833 or visit www.hollybanktrust.com
Hollybank Trust is the only organisation in the UK committed to educating, supporting and enriching the lives of children with profound and multiple disabilities for life. Here, they talk about the services they can provide