Video report by Katie Cole
World-famous artist Mackenzie Thorpe has opened a school for autistic children in his hometown of Middlesbrough.
Opening the school named in his honour, the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, he met autistic and neurodiverse children and their families, and school staff.
He also unveiled an artwork created exclusively for the North East Autism Society, of which he’s a patron.
Talking to ITV Tyne Tees at the opening, Thorpe said: “It’s a big honour and something to live up to. I am over the hill so to speak and I am now thinking about my legacy and what I can leave behind and give”.
Teaching at the school started eighteen months ago but the official opening was delayed because of the pandemic. The charity has since opened a second school in Stockton.
Tracey Train is the school’s principal. She says there is a noticeable difference in students, now they are able to return to school full-time. “Many of our young children have been disengaged from education for a considerable amount of time before they came here so many would sit at home.
“The fact that they are able to actually come into a school building and start formingfriendships with other young people is brilliant”.
Samantha Luker, whose daughter was previously at a mainstream school, said: “It has made a huge difference. She is like a different child. I always say she’s learning to be a kid again. She’s got that light back in her eyes”.
Thorpe has dyslexia and struggled at school, something chief executive of the North East Autism Society John Philipson, said he draws on when talking to the pupils:
“If you watch him talking to the students and the staff here he is a really inspirational character. He draws on his own experience, he draws on some of the limitations that he experienced through the education system as he grew up and he encourages people to see the talent and the abilities in our students”.