St Catherine's School, Ventnor

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For other schools of the same name, see St Catherine's School (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 50°35′45″N 1°12′29″W / 50.5959°N 1.2081°W / 50.5959; -1.2081

St Catherine's School
St Catherine's School, Ventnor.JPG
Established 1870s
Type Non-maintained special school
Religion Church of England[1]
Headteacher Mrs Rachel Weldon
Location Grove Road
Isle of Wight
PO38 1TT
Local authority Isle of Wight
DfE URN 118226 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Staff 100
Students 58
Gender Mixed
Ages 7–19

St Catherine's School, in Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, UK, is a non-maintained residential special school for children and young people aged seven to 19 years who have speech, language and communication needs. Many students have multiple conditions and a range of abilities are supported.

Some of the difficulties the students have include: ADD; ADHD; Asperger Syndrome; auditory memory difficulties; autistic spectrum conditions; dyslexia; dyspraxia (verbal/fine/gross); severe expressive and receptive speech disorders; and specific language disorders.

St Catherine's centre provides: specialist education; intensive speech, language and occupational therapy which is integrated into the curriculum; excellent residential facilities; comprehensive vocational training programmes; and life skills and opportunities to develop social interaction skills to prepare young people for their transition to independence.

St Catherine's approach supports effective learning; builds confidence and self-esteem; and reinforces the importance of providing wide-ranging personal development opportunities.

Each class has a teacher, a speech and language therapist and an occupational therapist who work together to plan programmes and agree targets. Additionally, occupational therapy assistants and learning support assistants work with students both within the classroom and on a one-to-one basis.


St Catherine's Home was opened in November 1879, on the festival of All Saints and, until 1984, was known as St Catherine's Home although it was locally known as St Catherine's School. It has been a School since 1915 when the cases of advanced tuberculosis decreased and the arrival of Sister Kathleen saw the transformation of the Home into a school for delicate and Asthmatic children.

It had been felt by many people[who?] that a comfortable and quiet retreat was required for patients with advanced consumption, who having come to Ventnor for the benefit of their health, eventually became too ill to travel home again. Many of these people were not in a position to pay for the best lodging and constant attention which they certainly needed at such a time. It was therefore resolved to assist them in their need, and soon the indefatigable exertions of Mrs Willan, a committee of gentleman was formed under the presidency of the Lord Bishop of Winchester and subscriptions and donations amounting to over £1500 was received. With this money a start was made to provide a home for these cases for a small weekly payment of ten shillings and sixpence from each patient for every necessary comfort. For this they were well fed and attentively nursed by the Nursing Sisters of St Margaret's, East Grinstead. Peak House was purchased for this purpose and alterations made. When finished it contained 12 beds in two wards, male and female with three special rooms for extreme cases.

As reported in the Ventnor Times on 13 December 1879, there were 13 patients in the home and a sale of needlework was to be held in the Royal Hotel in aid of funds for St Catherine's.

By 1890 another property had been purchased called Grove House and was to be altered to provide accommodation for up to 24 patients. From November 1879 to December 1889 over 400 patients had been admitted to the Home and there was a growing need for more space.

St Catherine's Home enjoyed the patronage of the Duchess of Edinburgh and had a committee headed by the Bishop of Winchester and, among its other members, Dr Tatham of the Brompton Consumption Hospital. The Reverend W. W. Willan, the Vicar of Ventnor, was the Chaplain to the Home and his wife the Secretary. Nursing of the home was undertaken by the Sisters of St Margaret's from East Grinstead in East Sussex. They also took over the administration as well as the nursing with the Trust being responsible for the property. The Society of St Margaret's was founded in 1855 by the Reverend John Mason Neale. The sisterhood was of the Church of England.

In 1908 Sister Kathleen arrived at St Catherine's. She became Sister-in-Charge in 1910 and her word was law! Sister Kathleen was deeply conscious of the fact that, at the time, there was little or no provision for the care of delicate children. She set her heart on rectifying this and in 1915 she reorganised St Catherine's Home to make it both a nursing home and a School with 20 beds – 10 for boys and 10 for girls.

In October 1915 the first child was admitted and by the beginning of 1916 ten children were in residence. Originally the children came to stay for three months but this often was extended to five or six months by the Doctor. Further properties were acquired over several years and in 1923 Elm Grove became part of St Catherine's, for housing the older boys. The extensive grounds of Elm Grove provided a playground for the children and, to the north of the house, much needed gardens for vegetables and fruit.

In 1926 numbers 1 and 2 Grove Hill Cottages (opposite the main building) were acquired for accommodating the older girls. Berkshire Villa was taken over in 1936 and renamed 'St. Anne's’ and was used as a residence for the Sisters. From the earliest days life at St Catherine's Home has centred around the Chapel. The solemn consecration took place on 11 December 1925 and the silver altar and the statues of Our Lady, St Catherine and St Joan were placed in the Chapel at the same time.

The 1930s worldwide depression brought several problems, financial and otherwise. But to Sister Kathleen and her loyal band of helpers it was a challenge to be met. Delicate and sick children had to be cared for and those who were privileged to work with her soon came to share her love of children.

At that time all the children remained at the Home throughout the year, even during School holidays. Changeovers of children took place almost weekly. During the School holidays, outings were arranged to many different places of interest on the Island. One of the highlights of the Summer holiday was always 17 August which was Sister Kathleen's birthday. If the weather was good the whole afternoon was given over to sports and a picnic tea in the grounds of Elm Grove.

It was during the 1930s that the number of children at St Catherine's Home reached its peak. Sometimes there were up to 160 children in residence. They came from all over the country including the island itself. During the war, a large house known as The Hermitage in Whitwell was taken over and all the children in the younger age groups were housed there. Only the older boys remained in Ventnor. They were divided between the buildings to minimise the number of casualties should any bomb damage occur. In the summer of 1945 all the children returned to Ventnor.

By 1960 Sister Kathleen was reluctantly compelled to give up her position as Sister-in-Charge as she was then 87 years old. She always took a lot of interest in the events and happenings of St Catherine's despite being retired and was always happy to see former pupils. Sister Kathleen died on 11 November 1966, deeply mourned by all who had known her.

Sister Joanna was appointed as Sister-in-Charge and she introduced the going home of children for School holidays at Christmas, Easter and August. Sometimes it was a struggle for a young child to understand the reason for being sent to Ventnor, being given no explanation as to why they were sent away from home, not knowing if they would ever see their families again. Some believed they had been sent away because their parents did not want them or because they had been naughty. Of course this was not true, most of the children were very ill indeed. The homesickness was very hard to bear. For some it became a wonderful respite from bombed out houses and a life of not knowing where their next meal was coming from and also a place to be able to play and enjoy the seashore, which would never have happened if they had not been ill. Many made many friends that they still keep in contact with even now and believe that St Catherine's helped them with their illnesses so they could live a normal and happy life. The nuns left St Catherine's in the late 1970s and a speech and language unit was installed. St Catherine's celebrated its centenary in 1979 and the Duchess of Gloucester and Earl Mountbatten visited the School.


  1. ^ "School Prospectus – September 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 31 January 2013. 

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