We drove to Stepping Stones School to film a second short that would aim to present and do justice to the COINS funded school in Hindhead, following on from the Widad School film shot in Dubai. I was aware that the two schools were very different, most noticeably in the sense that Widad integrated neuro-typical and neuro-atypical children harmoniously together, while Stepping Stones is a school specifically for children with disabilities. However, I felt the same approach in style and general filmography would be just as applicable for Stepping Stones, so as to properly capture how dynamic, admirable and comfortable the school’s environment is.
We began in the Sundial Music Studio, a fully soundproofed room offsite that contained a plethora of musical instruments and electronic equipment. Students are able to spend time being creative, finding musical relief from the curriculum or just making noise. We met Joe, a GCSE student at the school, who provided part of the score for the film by playing us his own GCSE performance piece, and then showing us the sophisticated digital composition software he uses to create his music.
Next we drove down to the actual school site, a short five minute drive, where we were witness to a number of different lessons, ranging from art to Spanish, GCSE physics to individual English tutoring. Some of the scenes we saw were truly heartwarming, and it became immediately evident that the students are in the caring hands of some talented, patient and professional teachers who are able to encourage and cultivate the potential in all the children and teenagers at the school. The school is soon to move over to a bigger and more fully equipped site called Undershaws, which no doubt will further enable the school to provide a stable, safe and healthy atmosphere for the students to excel both academically and creatively, and cease to view their disabilities as disadvantages. From what we saw it is evident this is happening already, and the hopes for the future are promising.
Half way through our visit, we also went to the Cookie Bar, an offsite but very closely situated café where the younger kids go to work in front of the till or go behind the scenes and help prepare cookie dough or cakes for half an hour. We both agreed it was an excellent way to build up the confidence of the children and helped broaden their school experience in a unique and productive way. The cookies also deserve a mention – they were equally as impressive.
The whole day at Stepping Stones was an enlightening, moving and rewarding experience. I hope the films are an accurate reflection of its excellence, and that it continues to grow prosperously and give deserving students greater opportunities in life within and beyond the school.