The Grace Garden School is named after Catherine Grace (1907-1986)
Catherine Grace devoted her life to working out of the insights of Rudolf Steiner, in Catherine Grace’s case in education.
Catherine Grace was born on 13th January 1907. She was a pupil at Sidcot School, and then of Colston Girls School where she stayed on to complete a qualification in the Froebel educational method. For a time she taught in Canada before returning to England to teach at Westhill College in Birmingham. At 26 she had a serious illness which according to the medical profession meant she would never work again. Catherine Grace had other ideas. She became a medical secretary at Stoke Park hospital and was shaken by the treatment of children with special needs who were deemed as ineducable. She trained to be a nurse and then returned to Colston Girls School to work along Gladys Morgan and Hannah Berry who eventually became respected members of Bristol University’s Education faculty. It was during the war years that Catherine Grace attended lectures on Rudolf Steiner’s educational ideas, and taken by the idea that within all children is a radiant individuality that needs nurture and liberation.
So it was at Michaelmas 1945, with the encouragement of other educational pioneers in Bristol, that St Christopher’s was born. The first six children met at the Friends Quaker Meeting house on 25th September. Before long a permanent house was acquired in Westbury Park.
The school went from strength to strength and became a respected and renowned part of Bristol life and in the wider special need’s community nationally. There was a training course in the 1960’s and 70’s, and many conferences were held at the school.
Miss Grace was awarded an honourary MEd by Bristol University in 1971 and received an OBE for her services to special education in 1972. She retired in 1974 and died in 1986.
Now Catherine Graces’ educational impulse has become part of our Ruskin Mill Trust family and may we do due honour to her impulse and her name.
So, Catherine Grace, a dedicated servant of countless children with special needs, fearless with the utmost integrity, a passionate, curious, and knowledgeable educational thinker, an exemplary fundraiser who knew how to connect with the wider community in the city and beyond. A sincere and devoted pupil of Rudolf Steiner who was always interested in innovations in wider culture. A woman of great inward strength, deep humility and perseverance against challenges. These are excellent seeds in which to grow and nurture a new school in Bristol