Mums who founded special needs school receive major welfare award

Ali Durban and Sarah Sultman are honoured at Jewish Care lunch


Two mothers of special needs sons who established a successful special-needs school are this year’s winners of Jewish Care’s Topland award, recognising unsung heroes.

Ali Durban and Sarah Sultman, co-founders of Gesher, which is rated outstanding by Ofsted, received the award at Wednesday’s Topland lunch at Grosvenor House in London’s West End before an audience of more than 850.

“It is incredible to be recognised but for us it’s the children who are the unsung heroes,” Mrs Durban said.

The duo describe themselves as “highly ambitious. We didn’t just want a school but an outstanding school, the very best in class. The school is the springboard for teaching the whole community about inclusion.”

Mrs Sultman said they had come up against brick walls “at the start of our journey six years ago when people questioned if this community needed another school. However, 2018 is a totally different place and time in terms of inclusion and understanding SEN, particularly autism. This is the right time to be banging this drum and the reception from across the community this past year has been extremely positive.”

Opened in Willesden in September 2017, the school provides “a specialist and meaningful learning environment”. It is involved in a research project exploring vulnerability in primary-aged autistic children.

Also at the lunch, Sir Lloyd Dorfman talked to Natasha Kaplinsky about success in business, philanthropy and his knighthood.

“I want to continue to build businesses while making a difference as a philanthropist,” he said. “If you are fortunate to make money at whatever level, it is important to put something back, not just with money but with time.”

In the ten years the Topland Group has sponsored the lunch, more than £2 million has been raised for Jewish Care services. This week’s event brought in more than £330,000.

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