It was a long way from home and becoming a boarder was scary at first…

“We approached the RNCF because I didn’t have anywhere else to go, and my family could not support me anymore. I needed a boarding school because home was not happy or easy. I have never known my father, except that I know he is in prison and I am not allowed to know anything about him until I’m 18. We didn’t know at the time, but both my Mum and I have Asperger’s, and we found it very difficult to get on with each other.

“My Mum told me ‘she couldn’t handle me’ and I was going to stay with my grandfather for a few weeks. It turned out to be a few years. He was not a nice man – very violent, and he hit me with a wooden spoon all the time. One day I lost it, and turned the living room upside down. I was dumped back with Mum, but it didn’t go well. We battled constantly, and I ended up with Gran, who found it hard to cope with caring for both me and my step-grandfather.

“There seemed to be no options. It looked as though I might have to go into foster care. I was an angry girl – with my mother, with my life, and with my circumstances. My grandparents looked for a place that could take me, and we found out about the way you help children who need to board to be able to do that. With the hope of a place that might help me to escape the uncertainty of my background, and maybe give me an education that would last, we started on the quest to find the right school, but it took a long time.

“We toured numerous schools, took numerous tests, however none of them were right. Some were far too expensive, others weren’t willing to take me on. With many of these schools we toured, I felt a sense of money and class. It seemed that the more money you have, the more popular you are. This isn’t the case at Kingham. Many of the pupils come from less or average economic situations. Some pupils pay full fees.

“However, I have never known a pupil to be judged by their economic situation. Some pupils have as little as one pound a week pocket money. Some have as much as hundreds in a week! After touring so many schools and almost always being rejected, hope was running low, and we were on the brink of giving up, until we came across Kingham. The only way to describe Kingham is as a community. Walking around, all the pupils were greeting each other. Everybody was smiling, nobody was alone. If you saw a pupil alone, another one would be there in an instant. 

“It was a long way from home, and becoming a boarder was a scary experience. At first, I found daily life difficult, but I settled in eventually and it became second nature – it gave me a sense of independence. I used to have everything done for me, now I have a sense of responsibility. If I want my washing done, I put it in. If I want my ironing, I do it. If I need something I have to use my own money and go and buy it.

“Kingham has also helped me greatly in education, as classes are smaller. I used to be in a class of 30 pupils, now my biggest class is 12 and my smallest is 6. Before I came to Kingham, I was looking at Ds and Cs, now I’m at Bs and As, and I’m being told I could get A*s. The tie I’m wearing is an Octagon tie, which is our academic society. I was thrilled to be invited to join it.

“I think of Kingham as a safe place for me. If I get stressed or need to calm down, I can just walk round or go for a run and know I won’t get lost and I can feel safe. I can be myself at Kingham and know that I won’t get in trouble. Not all the time, anyway!

“Being at Kingham has given me so many opportunities. I have joined the RAF and in a few weeks I’ll be boarding a plane for the first time; the only difference is – I’ll be flying it! When I first came to Kingham I had never played Hockey and blundered in regardless to the rules, and here I am today, a consistent member of the U15s team, playing against other schools, feeling a sense of pride as I pull on that no.7 shirt, score that winning goal, and shake the losing team’s hand.

“There is no way that I would have the opportunities in life, or would have become the person I have, without being able to go to boarding school. I still worry about my family, and there are still some difficult things to face, but boarding has helped me to understand how to live in a community where everyone cares for each other, where there is stability, and where I’m making friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. It has given me self-confidence, and belief in myself that I’m not worthless, but can achieve my goals with persistence and patience.

“This school has given me a chance in life. It has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I hope it never ends. Thank you for that chance, and for your support.”