If you met him now, you would see that Conner is a relaxed, pleasant and confident young man, with a bright future ahead of him. But four years ago, when he first joined Norton College, you might have formed a somewhat different impression of him.


Conner joined Norton College when he was 12 years old. He had never attended a mainstream school, and after being excluded from other special schools in the area, Warwickshire County Council referred him to Norton College.


Conner was struggling with a variety of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties when he started at Norton College. A looked-after child living with foster parents, Conner found it very difficult to interact with people and he would quickly resort to using abusive language and violence if he felt things were not going his way. This defence mechanism, that he had developed to protect himself growing up, had become the only way he could express his feelings and frustrations.


As soon as Conner arrived, Norton staff proposed a highly bespoke package that included constant 1:1 support with facility for 2:1 support as needed. The College also arranged for Conner to be brought to and from home by specially trained College staff. As he grew and developed, Norton College developed a programme that Conner was able to buy into.


Norton College remained resolute that using medical solutions to address Conner’s behaviour was not the best option. The College felt strongly that it would simply anaesthetise Conner to the world around him and leave him entirely dependent on medication. If Conner was to learn to live in and contribute to society, he would have to do it for himself and not as a result of medical intervention.


Over time, Conner gradually grew in confidence and resilience. He learned to control his behaviour, became more able to self-regulate his emotions, and learned tolerance of others. With this, he began to realise the importance of educational achievement if he is to make a success of himself.


By the age of 15, he had put aside the many anti-social behaviours that had formed barriers in the past and he was looking positively to the future. His teachers and support workers felt that Conner now had sufficient maturity and self-confidence to join the local mainstream College full time (albeit one year early).


Under Norton College’s support and guidance, a package was negotiated in collaboration with the local College in Worcester to allow Conner to slowly reintegrate into mainstream education. This process enabled Conner to learn to function within the mainstream of society, to interact with students who were not experiencing such severe emotional and behavioural difficulties and to extend his learning with a broader curriculum.


Conner was slowly integrated into a full time course at Heart of Worcester (HOW), and quickly settled into the routine of life at a mainstream college. He made friends and received very good reports from all the tutors he came across.


Conner is now unrecognisable from the troubled young boy who first joined Norton College. He socialises with his peers outside of College time and makes daily use of his paid-for gym membership from Norton College. These social activities would have been overwhelmingly challenging for Conner four years ago but are crucial to his emotional wellbeing and continued development. And when his personal circumstances required a move to a new foster family, Conner adjusted quickly, due to his new-found maturity and resilience. He has even started seeing a girl in Worcester, but we’ll leave that for Conner to tell you about.


Clearly, Conner has come a very long way. He’s come from a lower starting point than most adults could cope with and has pulled himself right up into the mainstream of society. He’s gone from smoking over 40 cigarettes a day to being a non-smoker.


Ian Hardicker described Conner:

  “Conner is now a relaxed, very pleasant young man who is good company and who is able to stand shoulder to shoulder with his peers in society as an equal, and who is confident about his future. Such a description wouldn’t have been thought possible four years ago!”


This transformation has been entirely down to Conner – he has done all the hard work. All we did at Norton College was give him in a nurturing environment, based on compassion and warmth, and enabled him to learn to control his behaviour and emotions in a productive and beneficial way. Transforming Conner’s environment, his curriculum and his opportunities has resulted in a transformed young person.


Conner said:

  “I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to be a part of Norton College. Without them, I would undoubtedly be in even more trouble now than I was then.  Without Norton, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t be able to look so confidently towards the future. I’m so grateful Norton didn’t give up on me and they made sure I was able to get through positively.”



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