Living away from Home

Gordon Richardson: Starting school

Gordon was born in 1953 in the Philippines. His parents lived and worked abroad so Gordon attended several mainstream schools, mainly in Hong Kong and India. At age eight, he was sent to England with his brother to attend residential mainstream private schools, first in Yorkshire and then in Cambridge. He then went on to study at university.

Here Gordon describes leaving his home in India to start school in England.


I was, I’d say. I was about eight and a half at the time, and really very, very unsure about this whole idea of going away from, leaving home, not seeing parents. We came back from India and as a final treat, my mother took us to the sea to go for a swim at Robin Hood’s Bay. Yorkshire, the North Sea, mid-September, not a good idea and I think we got so cold then, that sort of clouded my whole view of England and of course, the first thing that happened when we went to the school was, we were in a school that was in an old Victorian country house, very large windows, very little heating. It was freezing. But you got used to it, you got to wear extra clothes and all the rest of it.
We were very lucky to have, each new boy was given at least one, or in my case two boys who were already at the school and knew the ropes, to teach you, show you round and in fact one of those, I went all the way through school with, we went through university together, we shared a flat together and we’re still great friends today.
But yeah, it did give a good start to what was a very, very worrying, unsettling, I won’t say frightening, but it was, I suppose like all children, going away from home and really away from home, was not good.
I had experienced some of it because, a few years earlier, I’d been in hospital in Wakefield, following a major operation, to try and sort out some problems with my hips and I was in plaster for 12 months, unable to move, it was a plaster that went from my chest to my toes. And because of transport problems, my mother could only come over to see me once a month and because hospital waiting times then, sorry hospital visiting times were very rigid, the timing of the buses and the timing of the visiting times meant she only saw me for half an hour.
I wonder today what the reaction would be if parents were told they could only see their children for half an hour a month whilst they were in hospital. It seems much more likely that they’d have to provide an en-suite room
for the parents to actually stay in the hospital. So it wasn’t the first time I’d been away from home, for a long time, but it was still unsettling.
It took probably a couple of terms really before I really felt comfortable being at school, knowing the ropes, finding my own place, knowing what concessions I needed to, not that I thought of them at that time as concessions, but it was how I could work, what I could do in with the timetables.

Explore more

Explore stories by theme or view the timeline of significant events in education for disabled people

A selection of other stories...