Brisbane Grammar School: The power of inclusivity

Brisbane Grammar School (BGS) Year 6 Class Captain Joshua Wood, who is profoundly vision impaired, has recently competed at the Queensland Swimming Championship. Joshua enjoys writing and reading, which he does using Braille.

Joshua completes all his school work, including assessment, in Braille. He has now progressed to a very high level, winning state Braille competitions over recent years.

Older brother Ben started at BGS in Year 7 in 2017 and after a year at school was confident the environment would also suit Joshua. Their parents, Dean and Jenny, agreed and Joshua started Year 5 at the school last year.

“We really value education and we want Joshua to be able to go to university. We thought Brisbane Grammar School was the place that would give him everything he needs to enable that opportunity,” Jenny said.

“It is a credit to everyone at the school how well he has been catered for and how he is just one of the boys. At BGS, Joshua has been encouraged to participate in everything and not let his disability stand in the way.”

Not letting anything stand in his way has been a motto Joshua has lived since he was born. In 2017 he and Ben entered The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, the world’s oldest schools writing competition, established in 1883.

Joshua’s entry was the first in Braille in the 134-year history of the competition. The pair both earned certificates of Special Commendation and the Duchess of Cornwall, Qantas and Australian Women’s Weekly teamed up to send the Wood family to London to visit Buckingham Palace and receive their awards.

The family was treated like royalty, meeting HRH The Duchess of Cornwall inside Buckingham Palace, enjoying a personal tour of the Royal Mews, a trip to Australia House to meet Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK and a tour of the London Underground.

This year Joshua has continued taking on new challenges, improving significantly in swimming. “I started swimming at school and got better and went to the squad,” he said. “From there I went to the Districts and got through that and went to the Regionals and then to the States.”

Joshua competed in the 50m Freestyle in the multiclass disability event, achieving first place at Districts and Regionals and bettering his personal best by four seconds at the State Championships. He hopes to continue to improve and one day compete in the Paralympics.

Now more than a year into his BGS journey, Joshua said he was loving his time at school. “I’ve never been bullied or heard of bullying at this school. I was voted Class Captain in Semester 2 last year and again this year. Everyone is very inclusive.”

Jenny reiterated the culture of acceptance at BGS as one that permeates the entire school. “Many organisations comment on having a culture that promotes diversity and inclusivity; however, Brisbane Grammar School lives it,” she said. “From administration, teachers, support staff through to the students, we have found the school to have a culture of acceptance, inclusivity and understanding.”

Dean said Joshua’s confidence had grown substantially in the past year. “To see the pride in his face when he came first in his swimming and when he came home and told us he was voted Class Captain again is priceless,” he said.

The Woods said they were proud of their sons, crediting Ben for his ongoing encouragement and support of his younger brother. “Ben had always been the high achiever and now Joshua is getting to achieve great things in his own right.”

Discover the opportunities for day and boarding students at one of Queensland’s leading school for boys by visiting the website.

Photo credit: Australian Women’s Weekly

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