New chef is a real foodie

Date: Mon, October 01, 2012

A MAN with Down’s Syndrome has spoken of his delight after being offered a regular job in Goring, writes Dan Robinson. 

Tom Parry, 27, works 12 hours a week as a catering assistant at Flint House police rehabilitation centre in Reading Road. He was given the job after completing a seven-week training programme. He works on Monday and Wednesday in the kitchen, which provides meals for more than 200 people, including the centre’s 165 patients. His duties include preparing breakfasts and deep cleaning the kitchen. 

Mr Parry, from Gallowstree Common, said working life had initially been a cultural shock but he was now enjoying the routine. 
“It’s been very good,” he said. “I love kitchens and I cook meals like stir fries at home and those skills have helped me in my job. When I found out I was going to be paid I was really happy and wanted to go buy something straight away. It was the first time I’d ever been paid for working. I feel like one of the staff in the kitchen and I get on well with everyone. It’s very hard work but satisfying at the end of the day.” 

Mr Parry, a former pupil at Chiltern Edge School, has completed an NVQ level one qualification and is now working to gain a level two certificate. Catering manager Robert Chambers said: 

“Tom is an integral part of the team here and he understands what’s going on. He’s a pleasure to have in the kitchen and he works hard. We’re teaching him how to use his hands and thought processes. By preparing simple things like beetroot it will get him used to the equipment and learn about health and safety. There’s a limit to how quickly he can learn but he is learning very fast. He understands about washing his hands and contamination. This is something we can do to pay a bit back to society. It’s a real job for him and he’s treated as an ordinary member of staff.” 

Mr Parry was helped by charity Mencap to find the job. He is assisted in the kitchen by the organisation’s employment facilitator, Craig Cheshire. Mr Cheshire said: 

Already he’s got a great relationship with the staff and he has a bit of a banter with them. Everyone here is really supportive. We've tried to make picture sheets to show him what to do because it’s easier for him to learn. He doesn't need a great deal of help and he’s picked most of it up by himself. He is a lovely individual and just needs little reminders sometimes. The idea is for him to be working independently within three months and get a sense of what real life is like.” 

Mr Cheshire said he hopes people with similar problems can be inspired to integrate into working life like Mr Parry. He added: “When we initially meet people, we see how able they are, what interests them and what they can do in that field. Tom has a big passion for cooking so we tried to find him some kitchen work. He was placed on a trial programme because people with learning difficulties find it extremely difficult to apply for a job and go through the interview stage. Many of the placements found by Mencap are in catering, retail and cleaning jobs and can often lead to permanent employment. Placements give them a sense of what it’s like to be in a working environment, which is extremely difficult to get with employers, said Mr Cheshire. It has a great effect on the individual and gives them a new lease of life. They’re getting out of the house to work and being paid for it. Tom didn't grasp being paid at first. When I explained it to him again he got really excited and wanted to go out that night to celebrate. He was chuffed to bits.” 

For more information about Mencap, visit 

Appeal boosted by Boris ball

Published on 03 January 2012

A £350,000 charity appeal has reached the two-thirds mark in less than a year. 
The trustees of the Building Our Future appeal in aid of the Chiltern Centre for disabled children in Henley are delighted.

The appeal was launched in February when the Greys Road centre was facing the threat of closure. The latest fillip was a charity ball co-organised by a teenage girl with cerebral palsy and attended by former Henley MP Boris Johnson, which raised almost £37,000. 

One hundred guests were invited to Conservative Party headquaters at Millbank Tower in Westminster last month for an evening with 17-year-old Alice Tilney and Mr Johnson, now Mayor of London. Alice, who also suffers from epilepsy, arranged the event with her mother Maura having met Mr Johnson while she was a pupil at Bishopswood Special School in Sonning Common. Mrs Tilney said: “The idea was born when Alice bumped into Andy Murray a few years ago. 

“He was staying at the same hotel as us and Alice told him off at breakfast for taking what she thought was my toast. Later that day he sent a signed tennis ball up to our room, which Alice said she wanted to auction. It took three years to tie Boris down with a date but Alice always aims high and does the best that she can and says that no matter how bad she is there are other people worse off.” Mrs Tilney, who has three other children, added: “The Chiltern Centre is a wonderful place and gives families some respite. People do not realise that when you have a special needs child you do not get time to yourself.” 

Guests enjoyed a champagne reception and three-course meal followed by dancing. 
Nine items were auctioned, including a photograph of Alice with singer Enrique Inglesias, which sold for £250. The tennis ball signed by Murray raised £350. 

Alice concluded the evening by thanking everybody for coming and asking them to donate any money they may have left over at Christmas to the centre. She said: “Do not be afraid of special people like me and invite them to your parties because they would love to go.” 
Mr Johnson added: “The Chiltern Centre provides fantastic support for families in the area and I am delighted to see that it continues to flourish.” 

Paul Barrett, chairman of the centre’s trustees, said: “We are all in awe at the amount this event has raised for our appeal. “We are extraordinarily grateful to the organisers who were determined to pull it off, which they did in spectacular fashion.” 

Emma Lerche-Thomsen, community fund-raiser for the centre, who attended the ball, said “What was lovely about the night was it was a personal event. Everyone knew each other, which was really nice. “Alice was very much part of the proceedings and Boris Johnson knows the centre from his time as Henley MP. He was very instrumental in helping save it when it was almost closed a few years ago.” 

Alice was telephoned at home by the Duchess of Cambridge after writing to her about the event. The Duchess also sent her a letter, saying she hoped the evening would be a success.

Meanwhile, an anonymous donation of £4,000 has been made for a bed in the centre’s new wing, which was funded by a grant from the Social Enterprise Investment Fund. This year’s Christmas raffle raised a further £800. The appeal will be rebranded for 2012 as the Chiltern Centre Jubilee Appeal. Events will include golf and tennis days, the annual ladies’ luncheon and a challenge walk. On May 20 the Chiltern Jubilee Family Day, organised by the Freemasons of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, will take place at Fawley Hill estate, the home of Sir William and Lady McAlpine. 

Marian Lee, director of services at the centre, said: “It has been quite an amazing year for us as so much has happened. It has been like a whirlwind. It has been a lot of hard work but the amount that has been raised is incredible. Everyone has got behind this campaign.” 

Mr Barrett added: “This time last year we were really looking at a grim financial place and the possibility of having to close the centre due to lack of cash. Staff took a five per cent salary cut and we are running a tight ship but everyone has rallied around and stepped up to the plate superbly.” Mr Barrett said the centre was financially secure for the foreseeable future. 
“It is amazing how miracles can happen,” he said. 

The Chiltern Centre provides overnight and day care for children and young people with severe physical and learning disabilities and supports 85 families from the Thames Valley. 
The Building Our Future appeal was launched because, in common with many charities, the centre was experiencing a fall in grant funding from corporations and trusts and its cash reserves were low. The appeal is supported by TV presenter Phillip Schofield, who lives in Fawley and is a patron of the charity. People can make a one-off donation or pledge a regular monthly amount by standing order. Those donating at least £1,000 a year will qualify to become a member of the benefactors’ club. 

The centre has received an “outstanding” rating from education watchdog Ofsted for the last four years and last year won the short break setting award in the Government’s Aiming High for Disabled Children scheme. 
The new wing was opened in October and has two bedrooms, bringing the total to five, a bathroom and more living space, enabling the centre to offer more specialist care. 

For more information, visit

Click on the logo to see what recent past pupils Nicole Marsan, Harry Vella Eyre, Elizabeth Kelly, George Thatcher and Harry McLaughlin have been up to at Pathways at Henley College 

in memorium

Joanne Clarke

1970 - 2012


My family and I would like to thank all of the staff [at Bishopswood School] for the care and happiness you gave to my late daughter Joanne when she was with you from the age of 11-16.

An extract from a thank you letter received from ex-pupil Joanne Clark’s Father.