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Mark's oasis of calm at National Star at Hereford

Mark's oasis of calm at National Star at Hereford

Thanks to fantastic fundraising by the local Herefordshire community, National Star at Hereford has developed a vibrant outdoor learning environment for young people with complex disabilities.

The space to the rear of the day provision in Harrow Road was unloved and underused. Our vision was to provide Hereford’s students with a safe and stimulating area to garden, have fun in the fresh air and develop the life skills that are essential for developing independence.

This was made possible with the generous support of the local community, including: Tesco Bags of Help; One Stop Carriers for Causes; the Provincial Grand Lodge Mark Master Masons, Gloucestershire & Herefordshire and a community grant from Hereford City Council.

The new outdoor space has an all–season and all–weather play area, a polytunnel with raised beds for growing vegetables and plants, a sun sail, a swing for therapeutic play and a ‘bug hotel’. A sensory area is due to be completed by summer 2018.

An oasis of calm

For Mark Williams, the outdoor learning environment at National Star at Hereford is an oasis of calm.

The 20–year–old, who has autism, is sensitive to noise and needs time to process thoughts and activities. Tasks that many people take for granted – such as going through a door or bending over to tie a shoelace – take Mark more than 20 minutes as he processes the information and puts those thoughts into action.

Mark first started having processing issues following the death of his grandfather, who Mark called his big buddy. Mark’s mum Heather says that Mark stopped drawing – his favourite pastime – then the family noticed that he needed more and more time to do simple tasks.

‘He would be bent over for more than 20 minutes tying his lace. He would say he was stuck,’ said Mrs Williams.

His condition has had an impact on the entire family. ‘We have all had to slow down a bit and we have found new depths of patience.’

Unlocking confidence

The National Star at Hereford team are working with Mark to support him to manage his condition and he is making huge progress.

He is included in all activities with the other 12 students who attend the day provision at Hereford, including going to the gym and making use of the outdoor learning space where he enjoys the responsibility for watering and looking after the plants.

By adapting different approaches, adjusting times, breaking down tasks and creating routines, the team have enabled Mark to process faster and finish tasks himself.

‘We take away the unnecessary bits that we know Mark can do so that he can demonstrate his learning and focus on new skills,’ said a member of the National Star at Hereford team.

Mark has done so well that he now has a work experience placement, something that would not have been considered possible six months ago.

‘National Star has given Mark back his confidence. The team is helping him unlock it all again and the stimulation National Star provides is helping him come back to us again. I can’t thank them enough,’ said Mrs Williams.

Find out more

Find out more about National Star’s personalised learning programmes in Hereford. You can also contact the Admissions team at or on 01242 534928.

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