School Culture

Richard Rieser: Smelt like Hospital

Richard was born in 1948 in London. He attended private mainstream primary schools and then went to his local mainstream secondary school and on to university.

Here Richard recalls the atmosphere of a school he attended at age four.

  • Richard Rieser
  • Richard Rieser
  • Richard Rieser
  • Richard Rieser


They were trying to get me into Eleanor Roosevelt special school, that was in Essendine Road in NW6. And I remember going for a day, I thought I was there longer, but looking at the papers I think I was probably only there a day. And I couldn’t believe this place, it did chime with me, it smelt like the hospitals I’d been in, and the kids were just sitting around in wheelchairs, or with, you know, false legs, very bad prosthesis that you could tell, look like a bit like a doll or something, it was very obviously not.

And they were just all sitting in these chairs, and I was a very active kid. I remember it and I smell it, and I must have been about four. And I ended up having a tantrum, rolling around the floor, saying, 'I’m not coming here, I’m not coming, I’m not coming here'. That experience of being there with the kids doing nothing, that was basically the strongest thing. They were just sitting in their chairs waiting for someone in a white coat to come and do something with them.

And it smelt like the hospital, that was so strong for me, even as a professional I find it difficult now to go into specialist schools, even though I have to as part of my job, it makes me sick going into the places, because they are so alienating.

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