The Duke of Edinburgh has hailed the new Kisharon Noé School building as “fantastic”, paying tribute to the team who had “the vision” to build it.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony for the school for pupils with learning disabilities and autism, the duke congratulated the team behind the school, which encompasses the Kisharon Wohl Campus and the Loftus Learning Centre, in Hendon, saying: “Congratulations to all of you who have been involved in this fantastic project and for […] having the vision to be able to increase the service and the fantastic work that you are doing for so many young people and for their parents.”
The duke was speaking after visiting pupils in their lessons and watching a musical performance by students and staff at the school, which caters for children aged four to 19.
His Royal Highness The Duke Of Edinburgh met pupils when he officially opened The Wohl Campus And Kisharon Noé School, A Loftus Learning Centre. (Kisharon)
Bringing humour to the occasion, he told the audience: “I know you have all been waiting for this particular moment when I am going to have to try to unveil this plaque. I will try to make this as slick and professional as possible, but I just wanted you to know that it has taken years and years of practice - and I am still practising.”
The school, which cost £13.5 million to develop, is one of the most advanced of its kind for children with SEND or complex needs. Moving from its old site in Golders Green to Hendon in September 2020, the refurbished and extended building includes many new features, including a hydrotherapy pool, a sensory stimulation room and a kitchen, where worktops can be height-adjusted for pupils using wheelchairs.
The Duke of Edinburgh chats to a pupil
While the old building had space for 33 pupils, the new site accommodates over double that number and currently includes Israelis who have escaped the country in the aftermath of the Hamas terrorist attacks.
Richard Franklin, CEO of Kisharon Langdon, described the new building as “lifechanging”, telling the JC: “I’ve seen what is now possible. These pupils are really bright people, who are now able to do more and demand more from us and that’s how it should be. [The pupils] teach us how we should be.”
He added that another advantage of the state-of-the-art building was that it “attracted some of the best teachers in the country”.
The Duke of Edinburgh meets the headteacher of Kisharon Noe School, Dr Emily Haddock and Richard Franklyn, CEO of Kisharon Langdon
Addressing the duke at the ceremony, Franklin said: “I remember many Christmas Day speeches from your mother, and she spoke about tolerance. In this school […] it does not matter if you wear a kippa or if you teach with a hijab. We all celebrate Jewish values, universal values, and we teach each child, according to his or her ways, that you love your neighbour.”
Paying tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh, Kisharon president Leo Noé told visitors: “Society is defined by how we care for those who need us. We are very proud of what we do here and immensely proud that you, Sir, have honoured us today. In a true example of the Duke of Edinburgh before you, you have put yourself out to support those who need you and we are very grateful.”
The Duke of Edinburgh meets pupils at Kisharon No School
Nahva Rose, whose daughter Tali, 17, attends the school, told the JC: “My daughter started in the Kisharon nursery, Tuffkid, and since then, the school has grown in leaps and bounds in every aspect – the education, Kodesh (Jewish education), extra-curricular activities and now we are blessed with this beautiful building. I feel privileged to be part of an amazing school with an inspirational headteacher [Dr Emily Haddock], who aspires to do the best for the children.”
Sara (not her real name), who has a 13-year-old son at Kisharon Noé, praised the school’s facilities, saying: “His cousins think it’s really cool that the building has a shul and a swimming pool. My son is like a fish when he is in the water. It completely relaxes him.”
Pupil Salomi, 14, said that what she most enjoyed about Kisharon was that “everyone welcomes me. The feeling inside my heart is so nice," adding: "No one is perfect. No matter what you think about people, everyone should be treated the same.”
Joining the reception and a tour of the building was Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Nagus Narenthira, who had visited the school previously for a Q&A with the pupils. She said that the school was providing “a commendable service to the Jewish community and giving its students equal life chances”.
The dedication of the new building comes just months after the merger of two charities Kisharon and Langdon, forming Kisharon Langdon, which supports people with learning disabilities and autism from nursery through further education and into employment.