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Desmond's generous donation

Last updated: 2004-05-04

Media tycoon Richard Desmond this week gave his largest ever charitable donation to Norwood, in support of its new school project as the organisation’s Annie Lawson School received a glowing OFSTED report recognising its outstanding achievements educating children with multiple and profound learning disabilities.


Speaking after donating a seven-figure sum to the charity, Richard Desmond said: “This is the biggest single charitable donation that I have ever made.  I have decided to do this because I have worked and been involved with Norwood for some twenty years and know that this project will be life changing for many, many people. I have the confidence in Norma Brier and her team, and know that once it is built, Norwood’s new school and learning centre in Bushey, Hertfordshire, will help educate some of the most profoundly disabled children in the community for decades after."


The donation came after the recent publication of an OFSTED report on the Annie Lawson School - currently based at Ravenswood Village in Berkshire - following an inspection in December 2003. It found that “the Annie Lawson School is an improving school and there are well developed plans to take the school forward even further.“ The report said: “The school has worked very hard to adapt a nationally published curriculum to the needs and capabilities of the pupils.”  It went on to say: “Pupils are well cared for and the school achieves its aim of helping pupils make progress and achieve success.”


The overwhelmingly positive report comes at the end of a couple of years of considerable change for the school.  Factors including a major re-structuring, the arrival of a new Head Teacher, and some new teaching staff have all helped to implement positive change at the school.


Some of the report’s key findings were:

·         The school has a clear view of how to further improve the curriculum and the quality of teaching and assessment

·         Its wide range of extra-curricular activities supports pupils’ social development and complements the academic curriculum well

·         Its arrangements for accrediting students’ achievements in the further education department are well planned and effective

·         The teamwork between teachers, classroom support staff, therapists, residential staff and key workers are a strength of the school

·         The school’s induction programmes for new staff are effective

·         Its staff provide good role models for the pupils

·         The school succeeds in meeting its aims of teaching most of the national curriculum subjects within an ethos of Jewish values, beliefs, culture and tradition, under the guidance of a specialist cultural advisor.

·         The school is a safe and caring place to learn

·         The school’s relationships with parents are strong and the information it provides for them is very good


Expressing delight at the report, Headteacher Mark Hughes said: “I am absolutely thrilled that our recent OFSTED inspection has clearly acknowledged the many achievements of our very special pupils, and the hard work and commitment of our outstanding staff team.  This, combined with the very positive National Care Standards Commission inspections of our three children’s homes in the summer of 2003 has clearly affirmed our view that Norwood’s Annie Lawson School makes an excellent provision for children with complex and severe learning disabilities and that the organisation has a school that it can be proud of.  It is very exciting for us to have such wonderful endorsement for our work at a time when Norwood is setting new standards for the future, with the development of a brand new state-of-the-art school and learning centre in Bushey, Hertfordshire which aims to set new standards in its field.”


Norwood has recently announced that Hertsmere council has agreed to grant the organisation planning permission to move the school from its current site to a 7-acre site in Bushey. The move, scheduled for 2006, will bring the school closer to the Jewish community in North London.  For more information on how to support this project donors should contact Hilary Newmark, Head of Major Donations at Norwood on 020 8420 6849 or email