Thornbury school celebrates lives of two much-loved young pupils

June 18 2019
Thornbury school celebrates lives of two much-loved young pupils

A SCHOOL community has come together to celebrate the short but happy lives of two young pupils.

Alba Kippen was just under three years old and Shelbie Williams was 19 when they died. They both went to New Siblands School, which is for children aged between two and 19 with severe learning difficulties or profound and multiple learning difficulties. It has the expertise to support children with life-limiting conditions and holds celebration days to help other pupils if they pass away.

Head teacher Carrie Osmond said: “It has been so hard to lose two much-loved pupils. The celebration days have helped everybody to show support to the families and to demonstrate how much we have valued being able to share their lives.”

On Alba’s celebration day all the children wore green, as this was the colour which she responded to most. There were lots of activities including icing biscuits with Briony May, the semi finalist from the Great British Bake Off. Briony, pictured above with Alba's brother Coupar, has a connection with New Siblands through one of the school’s parents and is a disability ambassador for Jessie May, the Bristol based charity which cares for terminally ill children and their families. Staff from the charity came in to do some finger painting, as it has been supporting Alba’s family and will continue to do so for another five years if they wish.

Charlotte Baker was one of Alba’s Jessie May nurses and described her as a “very special and brave little girl”.

Charlotte said: “On the day we did a fingerprint tree with all of the children and staff from the school. This was inspired from activities we did with Alba, we would use her hand, foot and fingerprints and make them into cards and pictures for her family.

We used several shades of green paint to form the leaves of the tree from everyone’s thumb prints. The picture will now be framed and displayed at school to remind everyone of the lovely celebration day.”

New Siblands Kippen

 Alba Kippen's parents and brother unveil a bid table donated in memory of her

Each pupil donated £1, and a cake sale and raffle raised nearly £350, which was split between the two charities which supported Alba, Jessie May and the Rainbow Trust. The family were delighted to receive two gifts which are now permanent features at the school; a bird table from West Coast Properties and a plaque from Thornbury firm Lee's Mend a Shoe.

Deputy Head Margarita Steer described Shelbie Williams, below, as “loved by everyone”, with an “amazing smile and fighting spirit”.

She said: “Shelbie touched so many people who came in contact with her, with her zest and love for life. She will remain a real inspiration to us all in years to come.”

Shelbie Williams

On Shelbie’s celebration day children wore red and pink, as she liked these colours. Pupils brought in £1 and enjoyed a cake sale. At a special assembly her friends talked about their memories. A total of £200 was raised, which was divided between the Bristol Children’s Hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit and Ronald McDonald House, both of which supported Shelbie’s family.

When a child passes away at New Siblands School, all the pupils are deeply affected. They are informed by experienced school leaders who have had training from the educational psychology service. They also have the expertise to support individual pupils and their families.