Wednesday 11 May 2011

Here’s a special blog post from Gwennan Jones, Deputy Head at Sam Roonan’s school.

Sam is much like most of our year 7 boys here at Warblington School in Havant near Portsmouth. He is talented, chatty, sociable, determined, competitive, inquisitive and sporty. Only unlike any other boy in year 7 or indeed any other student we have at our school, Sam has Cystic Fibrosis. The most important thing for us all here is that we remember the first way I described him and treat him for the vast majority of the time like any other boy in year 7…rather than letting CF dominate.

Just like any other year 7 student, Sam is unique. Warblington prides itself on its ability as a ‘small’ school (just over 650 students) to treat each and every student as an individual and Sam is absolutely no different. However life for us with Sam at school and life for Sam at school with us is more unique than most!

I knew very little about CF before Sam joined us in September 2010 and didn’t really realise or understand what we would need to do or how, to make sure that Sam enjoys his school days with us the same as all of his friends and has those amazing memories that we all have of secondary school, despite the complications of living and learning with CF.

So what’s school like for Sam from my point of view? If Sam is well enough, he comes to school and goes to his lessons that we have timetabled all on the ground floor. He is treated like any other year 7 and loves the challenges of all subjects including PE! He has a dedicated small medical room where his physio takes places twice a day when he is at school with either his teaching assistant (TA) or physio from home. Either a TA or one of his friends carries his bag and his oxygen tank between lessons. I communicate frequently either by telephone or e mail with Sam’s mum or dad to ensure we are all aware of priorities and issues that may come up.

If Sam is not well enough or if there is an increased infection risk at school, Sam works from home. Instead of sitting at a desk without interacting with his peers, we use Skype to fully integrate Sam into his lessons. Not long after he joined we realised that the Netbook he had been using at Primary school to keep in touch when he was medically unable to go to school was just not fit for purpose. Working closely with Sam’s mum Lisa, I put together a proposal to the Local Authority to fund a Macbook to enable high quality virtual interaction in the lessons via webcam. It is just brilliant! Sam can be transported into the classroom via webcam and projection onto the ‘big screen’. This means that Sam can do everything that any of his friends can do who are actually in the lesson from answering his name on the register, preparing a group presentation, class reading of a set text for English, undertaking a Science experiment to watching a Food Tec practical demonstration. Teachers ask him questions, he asks them questions. It is amazing! People that come in to see it are speechless at the way in which all the teachers are using it to make sure that Sam does not miss out on all aspects of school life. In fact, when I walked past my office the other day at break time, I had set up the Mac for Sam’s friends to Skype him at break time, so he doesn’t miss out on the socialising as well as the academic aspects of school. On screen was Sam with a yellow ‘post-it’ moustache and sat behind my desk were two of Sam’s friends, both with similar ‘post-it’ moustaches having the most amusing conversation. I couldn’t stop laughing…

Sam has raised the awareness of all of us at Warblington of CF. Our non uniform day this term will raise money for CF and Sam’s sister Josie and me are going to run assemblies for all year groups to continue to raise awareness with all our students. Although we never forget that Sam lives and learns with CF everyday, to us here he is an incredible individual who is able to make you smile at his mischievousness, divert your conversation with his intellectual and very carefully planned questions, and leave you in total awe of his resilience.


  1. Its fantastic to see someone like Sam included so well with the use of inclusive technology. You're obviously a very supportive school. As with any pupil with a disability, their ability to adapt and join in with everything is remarkable !

    Principal teacher
    Support Service for Physical Impairment

  2. Your school sounds absolutely fantastic! The provisions you've put in place for Sam are brilliant - thank you for doing that for him!
    My secondary school were helpful, but the added interactive link would've been brilliant. My college however are the least helpful school in the area it seems and I get barely any support from them at all, which is shocking - I fear I'm not going to get the grade I deserve in my English a level because I've missed over 8 weeks of the school year, with no support. If only this support network could reach all schools, our education would be vastly improved, and the chances of other CFs getting into university would be increased too!
    Thank you for doing this for Sam! Wish him well for us all, and keep it going! Fantastic support network - I hope it continues throughout his school career!

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  4. Your schools has seriously done a remarkable job by including some one in the school even having disability.

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  6. two thumbs up for that school. Keep up the good work. I am very pleased to have read such article.

  7. Congratulations Sam. Continue to get smarter as the days go by.

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