The strength of community between Prior's Court and a fellow West Berkshire-based specialist school shone through on Friday after damage caused by a recent storm, leading to the creation of "Mary Hare Hotel" for one night.

After the heavy winds took out the main power connection and the back-up generator, a large portion of our main site had no power, heat or light to be able to support our young people, all of whom have complex autism and other associated needs.

Mary Hare Secondary School, in Snelsmore Common, answered the call for help, opening up one of its residential homes for our use, with 13 of our young people plus staff members spending the night at what one young person dubbed “Mary Hare Hotel”.

Staff at Mary Hare even went so far as to put a “Welcome to Prior’s Court” sign up outside the residential home, to welcome our young people and their dedicated staff members.

The efforts were all the more remarkable as Mary Hare had closed earlier on Friday afternoon for half term, meaning its staff who helped were actually on holiday.

Sarah Butcher MBE, our Director of Young People’s Wellbeing, said: “Everyone at Prior’s Court is enormously grateful to our friends at Mary Hare for their support given to us in our time of need. So many of Mary Hare’s staff gave up their Friday night for us and “thank you” is just not enough.

“Similarly, I remain filled with admiration and humbled by the efforts of Prior’s Court staff to support our extremely vulnerable young people. Everyone each put our young people first and really thought about their needs in a selfless way. I am truly honoured to work alongside them and call them colleagues.

“I am also grateful to the parents of around 25 of our young people who were able to collect their child on Friday night and take them home which was of immense help to us during a truly unprecedented situation.

“The 13 young people who stayed at Mary Hare all slept well and enjoyed their adventure.

“Tough times bring out the best in people and this was never more in evidence than on Friday and Saturday in the face of one of the worst storms this country has seen in decades.”

Not all of the residential homes at Prior’s Court were without power, meaning that some young people did not have to go off-site to be safely cared for overnight.

Peter Gale, Principal and Chief Executive Officer at Mary Hare School, said: "We were very lucky not to lose power sitting out the storm on Friday and so were very pleased that we were able to offer support to pupils and staff from Prior’s Court. I was pleased that colleagues made them so welcome.”