Last week I visited New College Worcester (NCW). The school has a mixture of boarders and day pupils who are either blind or visually impaired. There is a strong emphasis not only on academic studies but also getting the students ready for independent living for when they eventually leave school.
The college is in Battenhall ward, an area I’ve been fortunate enough to represent since 2016 and I’ve visited the college several times over the years and have always come away having learnt something new or with a challenge to my world view. It’s sometimes unsettling to be confronted with our own preconceptions and biases.
Writing this blog made me think back to the very first time I visited the college – it would have been about 1981 when as a young teenager I joined the school chess club and our school played against New College Worcester. I was about to get a reality check – right in the teeth. I thought I was quite good at chess – how could I lose against someone who couldn’t ‘see’ the board? Needless to say, I was thrashed and, quite rightfully, given an early lesson to a) never underestimate my opponent and b) check those unconscious biases on what others can do.
On this visit to NCW I learnt about the difference between basic and advanced braille. Level 1 braille spells out every letter but level 2 is much faster to read as whole words are put into a single piece of the code. There is a strong art department working on 3D modelling and textured collages.
This week I’ve also had the pleasure of listening to one of NCW’s very talented musicians. Thank you, Izzy, for joining me at the Guildhall for a tea, cake and piano/singing event for Age UK guests. Izzy can’t read music so learns each piece by heart. Izzy: You were amazing.