Today (November 12) celebrity quiz champion Anne Hegerty of ITV’s The Chase and I’m A Celebrity fame delighted Post 16 pupils at Laleham Gap School with a live video call.
Laleham Gap teacher Paul Ursell said of the hour-long call: “It was amazing! I am so proud of my pupils. They asked such fantastic questions and Anne was such a sport. Most of all it will truly help inspire them to understand that autism can impact upon you but it need not limit you.”
Nearly two years ago Mr Ursell started efforts to contact Anne’s team. Anne has Asperger’s, a form of autism. At times, she has struggled with some of its manifestations. However in later life, particularly since her diagnosis, she has been able to embrace it and not simply learn to live with it but see it as an ingredient for her success.
Once Mr Ursell got through to Anne she was very willing to come and visit Laleham Gap to support him. However first work commitments and latterly Covid has meant fixing a date has proved impossible. Determined not to let Covid stop the message getting through Anne agreed to do the video meeting.
The pupils were allowed to grill Anne for about half an hour. Afterwards Anne on their researched “very carefully thought out questions.” They ranged from how many ants could fit in a human body and how many countries are on the Equator to who scored the first premier league perfect hat-trick and what is the world’s smallest capital city. Of that last question Anne said: “What an interesting question – I have never been asked that before.”
As well as the fun of quizzing Mr Ursell said there was valuable time spent asking about Anne’s life. The students found out her favourite food is cheesecake, that she enjoys watching tennis, wishes she ran a bit more and loves Nick from I’m a Celeb (particularly for giving her his pillow).
The youngsters were told her favourite subject was English, that she was competitive from an early age and that Bradley Walsh is lovely – he even gives motivational talk to quiz players. Most importantly they learnt how Anne learned to cope with her Asperger’s. Her message was that you need to be assertive, find what works for you and emphasise what you are good at.
Anne was very happy to do the call stating: “As someone with Asperger’s myself I was only too pleased to accept Mr Ursell’s invitation to do a live video call with his Post 16 pupils. I totally agree with him about the importance of education and that having autism may impact on you but it does not need to limit your life.
“ I loved their questions today and hope, even if it is just in a small way, to have helped inspire these pupils to go for their dreams knowing nothing need hold them back.”
Mr Ursell added: “It was lovely to see my students conversing with and questioning Anne. Most of all I love the fact they could see how successful someone with autism can be. They just need to find the thing that inspires, motivates or interests them just like Anne has.
“That is what Post 16 here at Laleham Gap is all about – equipping our young people with the tools to go on and have highly successful and fulfilling lives.”
Anne has promised to send the school a signed photo and hopes to visit when pandemic restrictions are no longer in place.