Zara Todd: Cotton Wool

Zara was born in 1985 in London. She attended a special school initially, then transferred to mainstream at the age of seven. She continued with mainstream education at secondary and then went on to university.

Here Zara talks about her special school


I went to a special school for disabled young people who pan impairment. My family were encouraged send me to the special school because it was basically said to them that I wouldn’t achieve anything, so that was the best place for me to be. In my special school everything was, everything focussed on meeting people’s individual needs whether it was healthy to or not. So there was a very high level of staff and a very small number of young people. We were incredibly protected and everything was incredibly kind of cotton wool and we weren’t really challenged in very many ways. I was a challenge to the school because I didn’t fit the model that they were used to operating on. So at the age, I think three or four, they put me in a class of six and seven year olds because they couldn’t cater for me within my peer group. I was incredibly lucky. When I was about four or five, I had a class teacher in the school that basically could see that I would manage perfectly in mainstream education and so she gave up her free periods, her lunchtimes, to give me a more normal curriculum and give me the opportunity to go into mainstream, a local mainstream school for Maths and Science lessons. So she gave her own free time to facilitate that. Once she’d demonstrated that I could cope in mainstream school, she then supported my family to argue for my being placed in a local mainstream school and that then led to me being kicked out of my special school at the age of seven, on the grounds that I could cope in mainstream. But unfortunately, because the nature of how my special school operated and its cohort, the rest of the time in the school because I was so far ahead of my classmates, I used to be sat in the corner with a workbook and just left to get on with it.