Press and Praise

May 2018:  Dr. G appeared on WIS with Dawndy Mercer Plank to talk about our Royal Tea fundraiser at Laura’s Tea Room that is on May 21st from 1 to 4 PM.  Click here to see the interview!


November 2017:  The Barclay School’s Open House was a huge success!  Thank you to all who attended.  And thank you to Rob White for writing this amazing story about us in his newspaper.








November 2017:  The Barclay School was on WIS again!  Dr. G was interviewed by Dawndy Mercer Plank about the school and the upcoming Open House that is on November 9th from 1 to 6 PM.  Enjoy the video!

October 2017:  The Country Chronicle’s Robert White wrote a fantastic story about the Barclay School.  Below is his article and one of the photos he took of the kids (and Dr. G with her dog, Tink!):


Barclay School Continues to Grow

The Barclay Special Needs School was originally established in 2009, by Dr. Gillian Barclay-Smith, in a small three-bedroom bungalow. Since that time the school has continued to evolve and grow to meet the needs of the special needs children that call it home. While the students do not live there, they and founder have turned what was an idea for a school, into a family. Barclay-Smith, on her vision for the school, said, “I am a lifelong educator, but I wanted to do something different, I thought there was a kinder, gentler approach to education, that I thought made more sense.” Originally intending to write when she left her position as Principal at the Glenn Forest Special Needs School, she was contacted by the parent of one of her former students asking if she could help with her child. Parents continued to seek her help until one day she received a fateful call from the Dean of Columbia College. The Dean had heard she wanted to open a school, a concept that would fit in well with their Master’s program in Divergent Learning. “That was news to me, I didn’t know that,” said a surprised Barclay-Smith, but quickly she embraced the idea. The Dean asked that if she wanted to open a school; would she consider a house on campus. It was exactly the approach Barclay-Smith wanted, she said, “We wanted a different approach, we had couches, we had a fireplace, we had a kitchen. We wanted a homey atmosphere, because children with special needs really do need a different approach and we wanted a relaxed atmosphere. We don’t grade, we don’t test, what we do is called Authentic Assessment.  Our children show us what they learned by doing projects…because many of our children when they come to us have a lot of anxiety around education, about learning, because they learn differently.” Outgrowing the small three-bedroom house in 2014, the school moved to Board member, Tom Hall’s Magnolia Farms lodge, in Ridgeway in 2014. An advocate of the Whole Child approach and strength based learning, the Farm opened new opportunities for the children to learn beyond the standard school curriculum. Barclay-Smith said, “Everybody brings a certain set of skills to the table and those are often innate skills and if you can hone them they are often things that the children can turn into employment…in the traditional school setting, the model tends to be what they call a deficit model, we tend to search for everything the child can’t do and that becomes the label…while we do remediate, we are a special needs school, but our focus is the absolute antithesis of that.  What we look for is what is the child good at, what are their gifts.”  The farm allowed the children to live in natural surroundings, with animals and gardens as well as be embraced by a community of artists and musicians that would help them to explore their own strengths. In 2017 the school once again had outgrown the building they were in and began to seek a new building. The former Palmetto Montessori school on Cook Rd became available, a purpose-built building that can now allow 80 children to become part of the family. In August the school became their new home. The best reactions are from the students who helped to set the school up themselves.  Claire, a student at the school said,” Alex and I got to help move into the school and paint the shelves.”  Naomi said, “I really like the new tables that were given to us.”  Ethan said,” We are gonna have bees, and I’m excited because we are getting animals, we have an old baseball field near the playgrounds and this school helps me do math and read and do money.” The Barclay School is a 5013c nonprofit, you can learn more about the school at The school also gladly accepts donations, their wish list is on the website as well.

-Robert White of the Country Chronicle

June 2017:  The Barclay Pancake Fundraiser Breakfast was a great hit!

May 2017:  The students representing their school well at Midlands Gives!


May 2017:  The Barclay School is on WIS TV.  Thank you to all who made this possible.  The kids loved meeting new friends!


May 2017:  Barclay School student, Ronan, and a Barclay baby goat made the local paper!


April 2017:  We are so grateful to the SC Wildlife Magazine for writing this article about the Barclay School.

The Barclay School SC Wildlife Magazine Article



April 2017:  Please click here to read our wonderfully written article in the Columbia Metropolitan Magazine.


March 2017:  Students selling Bunnies’ Brew at Reese’s Plants, one of our local garden centers.









January 2017:  Bake sale at Reese’s Plants in the cold!