Exhall Grange School

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Exhall Grange School and Science College
Established 15 January 1951; 67 years ago (1951-01-15)
Type Special school
Headteacher Christine Marshall
Deputy Headteacher Jane Sanderson (Part Time)
Helen Seickell
Chair Jon Earl
Location Easter Way
Ash Green

West Midlands
Local authority Warwickshire County Council
DfE URN 125794 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Staff 95 (approx.)
Students 205 (approx.)
Gender Coeducational
Ages 2–19
Houses Easter
Colours Pink
Website Exhall Grange Official Website

Exhall Grange Specialist School is a community maintained special school located in Ash Green just outside Coventry in Warwickshire, England.[1] The school meets the needs of children and young people age from 2 to 19 years[2] with physical disability, visual impairment, complex medical needs, and social, communication and interaction difficulties.

Opened in 1951 as a school for visually impaired pupils, Exhall Grange was the first school to cater exclusively for partially sighted children. It later widened its remit to include pupils with other disabilities, and became a grammar school in 1960. Under the stewardship of one of its best known headmasters, George Marshall OBE, the school gained an international reputation for the quality of its education, while Marshall himself became a leading expert on the education and welfare of visually impaired people. Marshall's successor, Richard Bignell, steered the school towards a more comprehensive approach to education, and as a visually impaired person himself championed the use of computers as an aid to learning.

The school was a boarding school for many years, but significantly reduced its boarding facilities during the 1990s and 2000s as its role as a special school changed, and it is now a day school. In 2001 Exhall Grange began to share its campus with RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning (then known as RNIB Rushton School and Children's Home), an RNIB school which relocated there from Northamptonshire. A children's hospice also occupies part of the site. Exhall Grange was the first special school to be awarded science college status in 2003, and celebrated its Diamond Jubilee year in 2011.


Early years[edit]

Exhall Grange School was established in 1951 on the site of a former Second World War army base,[3][4] and began life with twelve pupils.[5] The school originally specialised in teaching pupils with visual impairment,[6] and was the first purpose-built school for partially sighted children to be opened in the United Kingdom. Among its features was specially designed lighting to help pupils read and navigate their way around more easily.[7] The school later began to extend its facilities and to enrol students with other disabilities,[4] while in 1960 a grammar school department was added to enable disabled students from across the United Kingdom to attain a grammar school level of education.[7] It was, for many years, predominantly a boarding school with pupils attending from across the United Kingdom, and it was regarded as being among the best in its field.[4]

Its reputation as a leading school for educating visually impaired students was established by its then headmaster, George Marshall. The concept of Exhall Grange had originally been his,[3] and he was one of its founding members of staff. After a brief spell as deputy head, he became head in 1953.[8] Marshall would later achieve international recognition for his expertise on the education and welfare of those with sight loss,[9] and received the OBE in 1976.[10] Also in 1976 the school celebrated its Silver Jubilee. In 1999 former students from the school paid for a plaque to be dedicated to him at Exhall Grange.[11]

The school underwent an extensive redevelopment programme during the 1960s, which saw many of the original structures replaced with modern buildings.[4] George Marshall also invited artists to work with children from Exhall Grange to encourage them to develop an appreciation of art,[12] and several sculptures were commissioned by him.[13] In 2009 a sculpture created for the school by Barbara Hepworth in 1964 sold at auction for £37,200.[12]

Following George Marshall's retirement in 1981,[8] he was succeeded as headmaster by Richard Bignell.[11] Bignell – himself visually impaired – recognised the benefits for the school and its students of using computer technology in a teaching environment. During the 1980s Exhall Grange became an early user of the Vincent Workstation, a system that enabled braille to be translated into speech and printed text.[14] Bignell continued to raise the school's profile throughout his tenure as its headmaster, building on the work of his predecessor. He made significant changes to the style of education it offered, moving away from the grammar-school based system so that pupils began to study the same curriculum offered by mainstream comprehensive schools.[15] He retired in 2005.[16]

In 1985 British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher apologised to the school after mistakenly criticising members of its teaching staff who belonged to the National Union of Teachers for taking strike action. It was NUT members at the nearby Exhall School who had struck. In a House of Commons statement on 18 March, Thatcher said, "I very much regret any embarrassment or offence to the teachers of this school which may have followed from my statement last Thursday. The misunderstanding arose because publicity material from the National Union of Teachers was in error. It was Exhall school which was affected; Exhall Grange school was not."[17]

Changing role[edit]

In 1985 Exhall Grange was the largest school for visually impaired students in the United Kingdom,[14] but in more recent years, a greater number of children with single disabilities have gradually been included in mainstream education, and Exhall Grange's role as a special school has adapted as a consequence. Many of its students now have multiple disabilities, while the residential facilities were phased out over the 1990s and 2000s. The school now caters largely for pupils living in the local vicinity, with the main catchment area being the northern part of Warwickshire, including Bedworth and Nuneaton.[4] Although it has a Coventry postal address, it is under the control of Warwickshire Education Authority.

In 1998, following an inspection from the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), the school was awarded Beacon status.[15] OFSTED gave Exhall Grange outstanding report in March 2009.[18]

In 2001 the school celebrated its Golden Jubilee. A special book by David Howe was published; titled, Exhall Grange School: The First Fifty years.

In June 2002, RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning (then known as RNIB Rushton School and Children's Home), an RNIB school based in Kettering, Northamptonshire, relocated to the Exhall Grange campus. However, the two schools remain independent organizations.[19] Also in 2002, researchers from the University of Warwick worked with pupils at the school in a series of experiments that involved using ferrets to help discover how blind children perceive space.[20]

In July 2003, Exhall Grange became the first special school to achieve specialist science college status.[21][22] It was redesignated as a science college in November 2007, and in September 2008 was granted special educational needs (physical and sensory) specialist status.[23]

In 2004 a syndicate of dinner ladies at the school won £2.4 million on the National Lottery draw.[24]

March 2007 saw the commencement of a three-year building and modernisation programme to improve the overall condition of the school.[23] In 2009 the school opened a new gymnasium and the old gym was demolished. Permission for a new gym had been granted in 1999, and the school launched a £1.5 million appeal to build it.[25]

In June 2009 work got under way on building the region's first hospice dedicated to the care of young children. Zoe’s Place would offer one-to-one palliative and respite care, and terminal care for children up to the age of five who have life-limiting illnesses and special complex needs.[26] An appeal to raise £650,000 to help fund the building of the hospice was launched in March 2008,[27] and it was scheduled to open in Spring 2010.[26]

In Autumn 2009 a coach hired by Exhall Grange for a student trip to France was targeted by two Afghan teenage stowaways as the school party prepared to return to the United Kingdom. The boys crawled into the coach's engine while the vehicle was parked in a supermarket car park in Calais, but the duo were discovered by the driver and absconded.[28]

In December 2010, John Truman, Richard Bignell's successor as headteacher, left the post, and a new headteacher, Christine Marshall, was appointed in March 2011. The school celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in 2011. Many celebrations were planned, including the burying of a time capsule in the school grounds during the summer term, and a Celebration Day on 21 July. Staff, students and past students held a 1950s-style street party to celebrate the school's 60th anniversary.[5] Past students included four of the original.

House system[edit]


In its days as a boarding school pupils at Exhall Grange were placed into one of six houses, each of which had approximately 50 boarding and day pupils ranging in age from 5 to 18. After the rebuilding programme, the school was unusual in that all meals were taken in houses, as opposed to a central dining system; however, prior to this, there was a central kitchen and dining room, with two meal sittings. The boys' houses were named Canterbury, Lancaster, Warwick and Windsor. The girls' houses were Avon and Kenilworth. A seventh house, York House, was originally also a boys' house, but was closed as part of the rebuilding logistics, and the boys were distributed between the remaining four. An eighth house, Malvern, was used for staff accommodation.

Beginning in September 1988 the house system was changed so that pupils were accommodated in various age groups. Canterbury and Lancaster housed juniors and those in the first, second and third years. Warwick housed fourth and fifth year pupils and Windsor accommodated boys from the sixth form. Avon and Kenilworth became Avon Junior and Avon Senior. Three superhouses were then created for the purpose of sporting activities. These were named Phoenix, Wyvern and Yale.

As the school's role changed during the 1990s and 2000s, much of the boarding accommodation was gradually phased out. Warwick and Windsor were the first houses to close in the early 1990s, followed later by Avon. Lancaster and Canterbury (by then known collectively as Lancaster) were the final houses to close when the school ceased to be a boarding school in 2004. The only boarding accommodation offered on the site now is at Rushton Hall.


Today the houses are Easter; Pink, Edison; Green, Hawking; Orange and Ingram; Purple. They are named after people; Melanie Easter, Thomas Edison, Stephen Hawking and Sam Ingram.

Notable people[edit]


Name Term of Office Time (approx.)
Dr G Highmore 15 January 1951 — August 1951 7 months
Mollie Caborne September 1951 — April 1953 1 year, 7 months
George Marshall OBE[9] 1 May 1953 – 22 June 1981[a] 28 years, 52 days
Richard Bignell[16] September 1981 — December 2005 24 years, 3 months
John Truman December 2005 — 17 December 2010 5 years
Christine Marshall 1 March 2011 — [b] 7 years, 107 days



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Previously Deputy Headteacher
  2. ^ Previously Deputy Headteacher


  1. ^ AA Street by Street. Coventry Rugby (2nd edition (May 2003) ed.). AA Publishing. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-7495-3973-9. 
  2. ^ "Really special". BBC News. 9 February 1999. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Gymkhana highlights". Nuneaton News. Nuneaton-news.co.uk. 17 July 2007. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Went, Rosemary; Visick, Rosalie (June 2011). "Exhall Grange School". WAB Mag: Centenary Edition. Warwickshire Association for the Blind. 
  5. ^ a b "School celebrates diamond jubilee". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  6. ^ Lee, Ann (January 1996). New Beacon. RNIB publications. 
  7. ^ a b Cole, Ted (1999). Apart or a part?: integration and the growth of British special education. Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-09225-X. 
  8. ^ a b Went, Rosemary; Visick, Rosalie (June 2011). "George Marshall, OBE, 1916–1984". WAB Mag: Centenary Edition. Warwickshire Association for the Blind. 
  9. ^ a b Mills, John H. (October 1984). "Obituary:George H. Marshall, OBE". British Journal of Visual Impairment. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
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  11. ^ a b Evans, Steve (22 July 1999). "Leading light of school honoured". Coventry Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Bonhams Auctioneers (18 November 2009). "Lot 132 Lot Details". Bonhams.com. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
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  15. ^ a b Barratt, Claire (3 February 1999). "The special school with an extra special head". Coventry Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  16. ^ a b Lynch, Lucy (13 December 2005). "Farewell to a very special head". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 15 September 2008. 
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  25. ^ a b "Plans laid, now we need the money!". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 15 March 1999. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  26. ^ a b Gibbons, Duncan (11 June 2009). "Work starts on Zoe's Place baby hospice in Coventry". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  27. ^ Manger, Warren (14 March 2008). "Sign up for Zoe's appeal for Exhall Grange hospice". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  28. ^ "Afghan teenagers caught on school bus bound for Britain". Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. 1 October 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
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  30. ^ Birch, Mort (23 April 2015). "Archive: Michael's wartime missions over blazing Warsaw". Nuneaton News. Local World. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  31. ^ Birch, Mort (29 October 2015). "Final salute to Nuneaton's RAF Bomber Command 'tail end Charlie'". Nuneaton News. Local World. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
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  34. ^ "Gold medal shock for Melanie in World Triathlon championships - Local". Kenilworth Weekly News. 16 June 2008. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
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  39. ^ http://www.paralympic.org/ipc_results/results2pdf.php?sport=swimming&competition=1992PG&gender=f&discipline=&event=4x100%20m%20Medley&eclass=B1-3.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  40. ^ http://www.poemsbeansandchips.co.uk/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ "Sports Legacy Initiative - News". Vision Charity. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°27′21″N 1°30′22″W / 52.45583°N 1.50611°W / 52.45583; -1.50611