Generous staff at Hightown Housing Association have raised £9,500 with a series of fund-raising activities throughout 2016 to help a special school in Hemel Hempstead create an inspiring and calming atmosphere for its pupils.

The latest initiative to help The Collett School, in Lockers Park Lane, raised over £250 and involved Hightown’s staff donating the money they would have spent on sending Christmas cards to each other.This money was used to buy ‘teddy bear’ soft blankets which help the children to cope with sensory overload.

Gillian Lawton, Special Spaces Project Manager at The Collett School, explained the value of the soft blankets for many of the children at the school, who can find it hard to settle down in the classroom.

She said: “One of our teachers introduced, for five minutes first thing on the morning and after each break, a quiet time. Also after breaks for play or lunch, the children can be over stimulated and find it hard to settle back into a classroom situation.

“The children wrapped themselves in old curtains or whatever we could find, we darkened the room and played soothing music. This has had a profound effect on the children's, behaviour, calmness and receptiveness to learning. Simple, yet very effective.

“We noticed that wrapping them in something sensory, especially very soft teddy blankets had the best effect. These blankets give comfortable hug-like pressure helping our children cope with stress and sensory overload, avoid meltdowns , self-harming and improve concentration and learning. We’re very grateful to Hightown’s staff for their support”.

The blankets and other sensory items, including giant bubble wands, have just been presented to the school by Hightown, along with a cheque for £9,500 from staff fundraising since April.

Staff activities which received double-matched funding from Hightown included dress down and dress up days, buffet lunches, a quiz and hamper raffle night, World Cup football sweepstake, Grand National sweepstake and a Halloween bake sale. More than £6,000 was also raised by Hightown’s charity golf day at Ashridge Golf Club in Little Gaddesden.

The money raised will help the school – Hertfordshire’s only school for pupils with learning difficulties aged from 4-16 – build new classrooms which will create an imaginative atmosphere to inspire children with special needs.

David Bogle, Chief Executive of Hightown, said: “The inspirational work at The Collett School complements our work to provide housing and support for people with learning disabilities. We’re delighted to have given our backing to a project which will make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable children in our community.”