Local MP Lynne Featherstone opens new games area at TreeHouse school

Lynne Featherstone MP and Jonny Gould with students at the new games area at TreeHouseSky News and Talk Sport presenter Jonny Gould and Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone officially opened a new outdoor games area at TreeHouse School on Friday 1st April 2011. This new facility will offer a range of sports including football and basketball.
The special guests were invited to TreeHouse School to unveil the purpose built outdoor games area and take part in a penalty shootout with TreeHouse and Muswell Hill primary school pupils.
Jonny Gould stood in goal during the reverse inclusion session which aimed to encourage children without autism to mix and play with children with autism. The outdoor games area will also be available for use by pupils from other local schools.
The launch came on the eve of World Autism Awareness month, which started on Saturday 2nd April 2011. The outdoor games area was funded by Play Sport London, The Lord’s Taverners, London Marathon Trust and the Department for Education.
Lynne Featherstone MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, said:
“I am delighted to open TreeHouse School’s new outdoor games area because it is important for children with autism to have access to sport in a safe and secure environment. 
“As well as enriching the lives of TreeHouse’s pupils, other children at local schools will be able to use the sports ground because it is a community space. What children learn about each other when they are young stays with them their whole lives and this outdoor games area is the ideal opportunity to bring children together, regardless of whether they have autism or not.”
Dr Rowie Shaw, Chair of Governors at TreeHouse School, said:
“TreeHouse School is thankful for the support of our funders to finally make the new outdoor games area a reality. Health and fitness is at the core of our curriculum’s drive to improve the well being of our pupils and the outdoor games area will enhance this. We pride ourselves on being part of a wider community and look forward to opening the outdoor games area to other schools.”
Jonny Gould, Sky News and Talk Sport presenter, said:
“I am bowled over by TreeHouse School and its commitment and investment to making sport accessible for all its pupils. It is heartening to see the elevation of sport with the outdoor games area because I know how fun and rewarding playing sports and games can be for children.”

Walk in our Shoes

Tomorrow I am taking part ‘Walk In Our Shoes’ to gain an understanding and awareness of disability and its impact on both the individual and the family.

Between the 21-27 June, autism charity TreeHouse is launching its ‘Walk In Our Shoes’ event. It’s an opportunity for parents and carers of children with autism to influence local decision-makers.

They asked for volunteer families to take a ‘decision-maker’ (in this case me) into their day so I will get a unique insight into the challenges and positive aspects of disability that affect the family I am placed with. I am joining a family with three children one of whom is nine years old and is autistic and I will be going with the family on the morning school and nursery run.

Treehouse – getting people talking about autism

Popped into Treehouse (our exemplar centre for children with autism in Haringey) and as usual they had a stunning new initiative about to launch.

This time it is an online initiative to get the public talking about autism. Last Thursday, the world’s first virtual Talkathon was officially launched by TalkTalk Commercial Director Tristia Clarke, CHI Founding Partner Johnny Hornby and TreeHouse CEO Jolanta Lasota at TalkTalk’s Customer Experience Centre in the heart of Soho. Young people with autism, parents and supporters all came along to celebrate the initiative which also aims to raise £150,000 for TreeHouse.

The world’s first virtual Talkathon is part of TreeHouse’s “Talk About Autism” national campaign to increase public understanding of autism, launched on GMTV by celebrity Keith Duffy during National Autism Awareness Month. It’s a simple, fun way for everyone to find out a little bit more about the condition which affects one in 100 children in the UK and TalkTalk will donate £1 for every person who takes part.

To see more about the Talkathon click here.  Arsenal Football Club, Matt Lucas, Jon Snow and Nick Hornby are just some of the famous faces who have already backed Talk about Autism. Please help us Treehouse reach their target of 200,000 online talkers by joining the conversation yourself – and then spreading the word!

Friday is constituency day

It’s a much more divided week than before I was a Minister. Basically now – Monday through Thursday is Government/Parliament – and Friday, Saturday Sunday is constituency as a basic rule of thumb.

So yesterday (Friday) as usual I did my advice surgery in Wood Green library in the morning and then a number of engagements.

First off was a visit to Area 51, a relatively new Learning Difficulties Service which has just moved to new premises next to the Chocolate Factory in Wood Green. Nicki Quarterman (who started it with George Chrysostomou) – showed me around the most fantastic spaces (old warehouse converted) where young people with complex – really really complex needs – were doing art, computers, cleaning and so on. It’s a kind of university for this very very vulnerable group, for whom generally facilities once leaving school are very limited and unchanging.

Here, in what Nicki described as a second window of opportunity to develop their skills, these young people are able to develop. It is a real challenge to provide for young people and adults with severe or profound learning difficulties in a mainstream environment because of the high level of resourcing required compared to other areas. Here there is the specialist training actually needed. For example – several of the young people eat through tubes. You can’t have the specialised individuals needed in every further education establishment or give the same degree of supervision and care.

Anyway – it was a real pleasure to meet such a dedicated and committed team of people.

Funnily enough – I also visited Treehouse (our exemplar autism foundation) in Muswell Hill a bit later – to meet the relatively new Chief Executive, Jolanta Lasota. Area 51 had just that morning made contact about some possible link ups. As well as meeting the new CEO – there were a number of pressing concerns about how things will work under the new-coalition government. It wasn’t just about funding per se – but a concern that without protection to the funding for their services – local authorities might not continue to fund their placements there in the same way as before. This is all authorities – not talking about Haringey in particular.

I will raise the issue with the Government – but ultimately giving power back to local areas and removing ring-fencing is to enable local areas to make those decisions locally. I trust that all local authorities given back power – will use it wisely and will of their own volition ensure that those providers for the most vulnerable are able to continue to provide such vital services.

The last stop of the day was to be one of the judges at Mecca Bingo in Wood Green. They had a ‘Mecca’s Got Talent’ contest (yes – obviously based on Britain’s Got Talent -who they sponsor). It was clear from the judging that I was the Simon Cowell one (I would have liked to have been Amanda – but am just not that nice). I did mention that one of the very brave contestants was a bit ‘pitchy’. In the end – a very talented and engaging young singer, Aisha, was our winner – who performed a song she had actually made up. It was only the second time she had ever sung in public.

So – it was a yes from me!