Kat Keogh visits the James Brindley School, at Birmingham Children's Hospital.
When you peer through the doors, it looks like just any other school.
Brightly-coloured paintings and displays adorn every inch of wall space, while pupils, with their pens poised, listen attentively to their teacher.
But at James Brindley School in Birmingham Children’s Hospital, the students’ impeccable behaviour is even more admirable, as many are coping with illness.
Spread across the city at different sites, including hospitals and specialist units, James Brindley School is the world’s largest hospital school, with approximately 600 pupils on its roll at any time.
At its base in Birmingham Children’s Hospital, literacy co-ordinator Kirsty Hopson said a one-to-one approach was the “big difference” between James Brindley and a conventional school.
She said: “There are stark contrasts because of the nature of the children we teach here, but we try to stick to the curriculum and follow everything that the child would be doing at their mainstream school.
“When a child first comes into hospital, we go up to their bedside, introduce ourselves and speak to their parents – everything is on first name terms.
“We are constantly liaising with their home school and we try to give the children a sense of normality while they are here.”
Rated as “outstanding” in its last four Ofsted inspections, the school houses a primary and secondary area for pupils to keep up to date with their learning.
In addition to teaching patients, the school may also be involved in teaching their siblings, as families travel, often from across the UK, for treatment at the hospital.
The school also arranges home teaching for pupils discharged from hospital, to ease the transition back into mainstream education.
The number of pupils on the home teaching scheme can vary from 100 to 200 at any given time, and although many of these pupils are taught within their own homes, some are well enough to be educated in small groups at three home teaching bases in Birmingham.
One of Miss Hopson’s star pupils is eight-year-old Oliver Hampton from Evesham, Worcestershire, who underwent a liver transplant a few weeks ago.
“At the moment, Kirsty is teaching Oliver from his bedside,” said Oliver’s mother Rosa.
“They get on really well. He’ll have to have some home teaching when he gets out of hospital and he’s already been asking ‘why can’t Kirsty teach me?’.
“Even when there are days when he hasn’t been up to doing much work, Kirsty will just sit and read to him and that really helps him.”
Pupils like Oliver will now have even more books to read, after James Brindley was chosen to become one of the first hospital schools in the country to benefit from a new reading scheme.
The READwell scheme, set up by charity Readathon, will provide new books every month to the school, as well as the services of a professional storyteller for children who are confined to their bed.
“New books are vital for children, especially those in isolation,” added Miss Hopson.
“They can only have brand new books to help prevent the spread of infection, which is why READwell is so great, as it will mean a regular supply of new books.”
To make a donation to the scheme, visit www.readwell.org.uk