Mackenzie Thorpe Centre

The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre is an independent specialist school based in South Bank, Redcar and Cleveland for pupils aged 5-19

Working together to inspire, support, celebrate and equip autistic and neurodiverse people to fulfil their potential in life.

WHAT a difference a year has made for Mackenzie Thorpe Centre pupil Harry Schofield.

The nine-year-old, from Loftus, Teesside, had been out of education for nine months when he finally secured a place at the NEAS operated school in December 2020.

The specialist school - which welcomed its first cohort of students in September 2020 - was suggested to Harry’s mum Jade Lawton by the SENCO worker at his previous mainstream school.

“I knew Harry couldn’t stay in mainstream education,” Jade, 29, says. “He’d been attending his previous school since he started nursery at three, but he’d never been in full time.”

Harry was diagnosed as autistic when he was six years old and struggled in mainstream education due to a lack of understanding and knowledge around autism, as well as the limited support available for Harry.

This resulted in the youngster missing out on lessons, being segregated from his peers, unable to join in with activities, such as the school nativity, or play out at break times which Jade describes as “devastating”. 

“It was really hard for Harry,” she says. “And for me, as his mum, it was awful.

Things were hard at home too because he was just so frustrated and dysregulated.

However, just 12 months later, things are looking up for Harry, and he is now attending school on a full-time basis for the first time in his life.

Jade says he’s also developed close friendships with two of his classmates and really likes his teacher Lucy Sinclair, all of which has contributed to a huge change in Harry’s overall happiness, well-being and desire to learn.

She adds: “He came home after the first day and just loved it – I couldn’t believe it.” 

Thanks to the specialist learning offered by the school, Jade says Harry “doesn’t always realise he is doing school work”.

“He loves his swimming, his horse riding and trampolining,” Jade adds.

I used to have to force him to do his work, but at Mackenzie Thorpe they make it so fun and really tailor it to the children’s needs. They will do some work, then take a break, then do something else.

With her son attending school regularly, Jade is now looking to return to work and says things have improved at home for the family now that Harry is feeling settled.

“Last year, with Harry out of school, I couldn’t work and I was exhausted. It was too much pressure,” she says.

“I can’t believe the difference the school has made. And all because they just took the time to understand Harry.”

Asked if she’d recommend Mackenzie Thorpe Centre to other parents who might be facing a similar situation, Jade adds: “Definitely.”

Find out more about Mackenzie Thorpe Centre