Opening Doors…

A school in Birkenhead for boys with a range of emotional and mental health needs is all set for many more adventures after being awarded one of the Steve Morgan Foundation’s Smiley Buses.

Kilgarth School received the 69th Smiley Bus awarded by the Steve Morgan Foundation from  Director of Regional Grants Jane Harris at last week’s official handover.

Students from the school will now be able to enjoy a range of both curricular and extra-curricular activities thanks to the Smiley Bus, which equates to a funding award of just over £28,000 from the Foundation.

Steven Baker is the Executive Head of Kilgarth School, as well as another SEN school – Gilbrook in Wirral – which has already enjoyed the benefits of receiving a Smiley Bus.

“I had already been working with Jane when we applied for the Smiley Bus for Gilbrook,” he explains.

“So I knew just how much of a difference having a bus like this can make to a school.

“We had quite an old minibus there when we got the Smiley Bus, so that one came to Kilgarth, and now we have another Smiley Bus we can pass that on to our third school.

“It makes such a difference, and there were times before we had a minibus that if we wanted to organise any sort of visit, the teachers had to take the pupils in their cars.

“That was proving expensive, and also meant you had to take a lot of the staff out of the school.

“With the new Smiley Bus we will be able to take everyone out together, whether that is for curriculum trips, rewards trips, or just the chance to enjoy the great outdoors which is vital for mental health and wellbeing.

“We don’t really have any sporting facilities to speak of, so we are also now able to get out and about to use other facilities or go to the local parks and so on.

“It opens the door to so many opportunities, and allows the pupils to access the outdoors as much as is humanly possible.

“It was fantastic to see the reaction from everyone when the Smiley Bus first arrived, and it wasn’t just the pupils, but the staff as well.

“To say everyone was over the moon is an understatement!”

The Steve Morgan Foundation always aims to encourage collaboration between its supported charities, and that is certainly something that has been in evidence with Steve’s schools.

There was one occasion last summer when the Foundation were handing a new, refrigerated van over to the Neo Community Café at the same time as a Smiley Bus which had been loaned out by Gilbrook to Gautby Road Play Scheme was dropping 15 children off at a funday.

The Smiley Bus has also been loaned to other organisations via liaising with Birkenhead MP Frank Field, including Feeding Birkenhead, and also the Positive Futures charity for young people in Liverpool, Port Sunlight Sirens Female Rugby Club, local cub scout and brownie packs, and a football club.

And collaboration also works two ways, with a local prison having sent Gilbrook ten mountain bikes which had been re-conditioned by prisoners, and now planning to send ten to Kilgarth as well.

“We will then be able to take the pupils and the mountain bikes out on the Smiley Bus to various places,” added Steven.

The Executive Head says he hopes that the Steve Morgan Foundation are aware of just how well-received and appreciated their support has been.

“I am planning to write to Steve and Jane to say thank you, and I hope they realise how much their grants mean to each individual and charity involved,” he explains.

“For some charities it is absolutely life changing, and it is incredible what the Steve Morgan Foundation is doing for the most disadvantaged people from our communities.”

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