Overwhelmed by their story, Counselling Directory has donated £1,000 to the funding of Northleigh House School.
After hearing the story of Simone Grice, a bullied schoolgirl who sadly committed suicide, the elderly couple chose to make a change and convert their home into a school.
Devoting their retirement to preventing further tragedy, in 2012 Vivian, 72 and Fred Morgan, 94, decided to convert their ten-bedroom home into a school for bullied children.
Three years later, the school is successfully helping 20 pupils regain control of their lives and this week, the couple were honoured at the Pride of Britain awards.
“I can’t think of anything worse than a child taking their own life. It is so final and tragic.” Says Fred. “If we can be useful and give a productive life to a few of them, then that’s only a good thing.”
Nearly half of the students attending Northleigh House School in Warwick have attempted suicide, with many living with conditions such as Asperger’s syndrome. The council has referred many of the pupils because they are “too depressed to attend their local state school.”
When many of the children start, they are too unwell to work and as a result, have fallen behind in their studies. “When they first arrive, they can’t do a full week. Some of them sit and don’t speak.” However, Vivian is proud to say that despite the torment these children have suffered, once they realise they are safe, they will start to join in – usually through cooking or looking after the animals.
The Morgan’s former home is now a fully functioning independent school and is steadily growing, with one family planning to move to Warwick so that their child can attend the school.
Northleigh House employs 22 staff members who will teach English, maths and science. The students aged between 11 and 16, have the opportunity to learn the piano and study languages, with the help of an Italian therapist. Many stay at the school for a year before moving on to Sixth Form College. Upon leaving, they are given the staff’s contact numbers, in case they need support or find themselves in trouble.
One student, who would give the wrong answers in class to save her from the bullies, left Northleigh House with A* GCSE’s, while another has enrolled in University to study engineering.
Vivian remembers many of the students’ stories, naming them as horrific. “We had one girl who had bald patches where the bullies had pulled her hair out,” She explains. “One of our previous students is now happy and in college, but she came to us after trying to throw herself under a bus. To think she may have died is terrible.”
Fred Morgan, now 94, says he never considered retiring. Despite having no teaching experience, the Morgans were able to establish the school through funding from the local council.
However, the council cannot support the school fully. Fred and Vivian are now fundraising with the hopes of building a trust fund so that the school can live on.
“I would like to see it remain, and at the moment it is not sustainable, I want it to live forever.” Says Vivian.