In 2015 Essex Ford and Lord's Taverners, the UK's leading youth cricket and disability sports charity, launched a partnership that would see Essex Ford supply the iconic, specially-adapted, green minibuses that Lord's Taverners provide to special schools for young people with learning and physical disabilities.
Essex Ford is well qualified to fulfil this role as a Motability Premier Partner with its experience of making health and safety adaptations to vehicles to make driving, stowage and accessibility easier and more comfortable. We also have a long history of giving back to the community by sponsoring sports at different levels from Essex County Cricket Club to local teams and schools.
Our supply of iconic green minibuses to the Lord’s Taverners continues to grow and is now in its third year. We hand over 40 wheelchair accessible and regular minibuses in 2017, which will bring the grand total to around 130 by the end of our first 3 years.
Thank you to all those that help play a part in making it happen!
Below are selected highlights from 2017.
2017 got off to a great start at Durham Trinity School & Sports College.
Rachel Grimwood, acting Head Teacher of Durham Trinity, said: "This new minibus will impact on all the pupils across the school as it will enable them to access sports activity without having to hire external transport. This new minibus will enable staff to extend the remit of what they do already by providing further activities in the community to engage pupils, access further sporting and recreational activities and help them develop life skills."
In the first couple of weeks of March the Lord’s Taverners visited the Perseid School in Morden, Surrey, and the Oakleigh School (pictured) in the London Borough of Barnet with new wheelchair accessible minibuses which will allow pupils with severe and complex learning difficulties (plus some with autism spectrum conditions and/or other conditions and syndromes) to get home following after-school clubs, go swimming, take trips to parks, and attend family events and sporting competitions.
Another new wheelchair-accessible minibus was presented to staff and pupils at Seashell Trust in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire (pictured). Seashell Trust is a national charity supporting over 120 children and young adults aged 2-25 with complex learning disabilities and additional communication needs from across the UK, including children with a combination of deafness, blindness, autism and other physical and learning disabilities or difficulties. The new minibus will let the young people continue to access education and leisure opportunities, including work experience, days out, and sport.
A further minibus was presented to the Garth School and the Priory School in Spalding, Lincolnshire. The schools work together closely with pupils aged between 2 and 19 with learning difficulties, autism and social communication difficulties. The new minibus will carry pupils across Spalding between the schools and help pupils access nature walks, horse riding, and other activities.
EastEnders and Brush Strokes TV star Karl Howman handed over the keys for a new wheelchair-accessible minibus on 28th March to St Piers School and College in Lingfield on behalf of the Lord’s Taverners.
St Piers is part of Young Epilepsy charity and caters for children with neurological conditions and behavioural difficulties and helps them to learn new skills, grow in confidence and make new friends.
Principal Richard Gargon said: "Acquiring this minibus is incredibly important for the students at St Piers School and College, based at the heart of our Lingfield campus. It will help our students who are wheelchair users attend activities and experience life outside of our premises with greater ease."
Pupils at The Forest School in Knaresborough (a local authority-maintained specialist college for communication and interaction) received a new 16-seat, wheelchair-accessible minibus thanks to the Lord’s Taverners and players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
The minibus will let students access a variety of activities away from the school site and allow some to access after-school clubs that aren’t available in their own communities as well as drama workshops in the school holidays.
Michelle Farr, Head Teacher at The Forest School, said: “I am delighted that the Lord’s Taverners have supported the Forest School and on behalf of the children I am exceptionally grateful. The Forest School is committed to ensuring that our children make as much progress as they possibly can and that they have access to different learning opportunities in their local community. The children, supported by staff, have acted very responsibly in raising funds towards their new minibus and I know that they will benefit enormously from the generosity shown to us by the Lord’s Taverners.”
Pupils at Redwood Park Academy in Cosham, Portsmouth, received a new wheelchair-accessible minibus thanks to the Lord’s Taverners and players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
The minibus will be used to take pupils with complex learning needs, many of whom have autism, on field trips in the local area and beyond as well as taking pupils in Year 10 and 11 to college placements and work experience.
Executive Headteacher Alison Beane said: "The pupils and staff at Redwood Park Academy are absolutely delighted to be presented with this minibus. Our whole school curriculum focuses on active, creative and practical learning with as much time spent out in the community as possible and for this to take place we need to be able to transport groups of pupils safely to the various venues. We would all like to thank Lord’s Taverners for their support and we look forward to making the most of the opportunities that having a new minibus brings."
As well as minibuses supplied to the Critchill School in Frome, Somerset, and Tor View School in Rossendale, Lancashire, Essex Ford helped to hand over 6 minibuses at the prestigious Hurlingham Club in Fulham, London, in June. The official presentations and functions at the Hurlingham Club are always very well supported by a host of celebrities and international cricket players.
Essex Ford and the Lord's Taverners, including trustee Robert Powell, officially handed over brand-new minibuses to Clifton Hill School in Caterham, Manor Green College in Crawley, The Walnuts School in Milton Keynes, Addington School in Reading, and The South Downs Community Special School in Eastbourne.
In July, new wheelchair-accessible minibuses were presented to Trinity Fields School in Caerphilly, Wales, and Middleton School in Ware, Hertfordshire, for pupils with a wide range of special educational needs.
On 19th July pupils at Reynalds Cross School in Solihull were presented with a new minibus in memory of the late Baroness Rachael Heyhoe Flint. Rachael Heyhoe Flint was captain of the England team from 1966 to 1978, was one of the first Lady Taverners and later became President of the Lady Taverners between 2000-2011.
Carole Garner, Chairman of the Lady Taverners, said: “Today is very special because not only is this minibus being presented in the 30th year of the Lady Taverners but it is being donated in memory of a very special Lady Taverner in Baroness Rachael Heyhoe Flint. It’s been great to visit Reynalds Cross School and see the impact the school has on young people with disabilities in the area and we hope the school enjoys their new minibus!”
On 1st September London’s Markfield Project received the keys to a brand-new, specially adapted minibus from TV presenter, business and property expert, and Lord’s Taverners supporter Jonnie Irwin.
The Markfield Project in Tottenham was set up in 1979 to create an inclusive place for disabled and non-disabled children to play. The minibus will help the children with after-school clubs and holiday play schemes.
Also in September other minibuses were presented to Frederick Holmes School in Hull, East Yorkshire, Quest Academy in Rugby, Warwickshire, Redburn School in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, and Piper Hill Specialist Support School in Wythenshawe, Manchester.
On 25th September the Lord’s Taverners and the Pen Trust (a charitable trust established by management consulting business, the Pen Partnership) gave Three Ways School in Bath a new specially adapted minibus. Three Ways School is an Academy Trust that operates as a Community Special School for children aged 4-19 years old with a wide range of physical and sensory special educational needs.
Amelia Hartley, Business Manager at Three Ways School said: "For us, this bus is invaluable for students to get out and about to enjoy sporting activities and also develop their life skills. Our pupils have a varying degree of special needs and cannot use public transport, so this bus will make a huge difference."
16th October saw another new 16-seat wheelchair accessible minibus presented. Former Gloucestershire and England all-rounder, Mark Alleyne, was at Crowdys Hill School in Swindon on behalf of the Lord’s Taverners.
The special needs school is attended by students with moderate and complex learning and medical needs, including autism, ADHD, diabetes and cerebral palsy.
Headteacher Mags Clark said: "Our Sixth Form opened last year with a very clear vocational remit – as such it is essential that we are able to support our students in developing their life skills, by ensuring that they are able to experience a range of sporting and social activities within their diverse curriculum. For us, this bus allows our students to get out and about without constraint.”
On 25th October Radio X presenter Toby Tarrant - a Lord’s Taverners member and son of former President Chris Tarrant – presented a Lord’s Taverners minibus to Cherry Trees in East Clandon, Surrey.
A small charity, Cherry Trees provides home-for-home specialist short breaks for youngsters up to the age of 19 with a range of complex disabilities, including learning, physical and sensory impairments.
Chief Executive Clare Bryant said: “It’s huge for us, we transport the children to school in the mornings and pick them up in the afternoon to ensure that the parents don’t have to do that when they stay with us. We also enjoy taking children out for activities; a range of sporting and cultural activities, and being based in a small village outside the town, we need transport to do that. It’s important to us to give the children a range of opportunities, similar to their non-disabled peers.”
In November, Lord's Taverners minibuses were presented to several schools, including Alfreton Park Community Special School in Alfreton, Derbyshire, Mayfield School in Handsworth, Birmingham, Merefield School in Southport, Merseyside, and Hadrian School in Newcastle.
Another specially adapted minibus was presented by Lord Salisbury and Chris Ryan (captain of Team GB's wheelchair rugby team) to Lakeside School in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, enabling students to attend weekly swimming lessons, football and boccia matches, and work experience opportunities.
Headteacher Judith Chamberlain said: “Because of the complexities of their needs, our pupils are not able to use public transport, so our minibuses are vital to ensure our pupils can engage in a variety of activities off site which enrich their education.”