US children’s author provides inspiration for Beechlawn pupils

Pupils from Beechlawn
Pupils from Beechlawn

Children from Beechlawn School have received an inspirational illustration from globally renowned author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers.

Oliver created the illustration after being touched when he received a story written by the pupils of Beechlawn – which caters for pupils with additional educational needs – with a little help from arts venue The MAC.

The author – who is from Northern Ireland but now lives in the US – is widely known for his picture books for children.

His work includes How to Catch a Star (2004) and Lost and Found (2005) – which won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize Gold Medal 2006, the Blue Peter Book Award 2006 and was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal the same year.

The pupils worked with MAC artist in residence Claire Dwyer Hogg as part of their Arts Awards training and development programme which enables young people to gain a nationally recognised qualification through The MAC.

The children wrote a story called Different Planets with help from The MAC and their teacher Caroline Harris, Head of Music at Beechlawn, sent the story to Oliver in his New York studio with a special request from the pupils.

Caroline said: “Our motto in Beechlawn is ‘dream big’, so when the children said they wanted to ask Oliver for an illustration I thought I might as well try our luck.

“The MAC helped me contact Oliver and the kids were absolutely thrilled to receive not only a reply, but a beautiful illustration to go with our story.

“The MAC suggested Beechlawn pupils could enter ‘The Arts Award’ in order to get a qualification, something we didn’t think possible before now. The lift this has given our children is immeasurable. Beechlawn Special School cannot thank the MAC enough for their vital input into our pupil’s lives.”

Clare Lawlor, Learning and Participation officer at The MAC, said: “Beechlawn was the first school to complete the Arts Award through the MAC. Arts Award is an accredited programme run by the MAC offering a range of qualifications open to those aged up to 25 years to develop creativity, leadership and communication skills through arts, culture and media.

“The Beechlawn pupils have responded tremendously to their exposure to the arts and have grown in confidence and life skills throughout the course.

“The arts is a very effective way of communicating with children with special needs and helping them to express themselves fully. I am so pleased for them that Oliver Jeffers took the time to write directly to the school and to send them this illustration.”