SEND Conference 2015
The fourth SEND Conference took place on Friday 12 June 2015, with delegates from all areas of the sector coming together for talks and discussions.
The day began with a welcome from Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, who thanked all of this year's delegates for attending the day and actively participating in the SEND discussion.
Our first key note speech was presented by Melsa Buxton, Head Teacher of Fountains Federation in Burton, and Pam Wooding, retired assistant head and SENCO at William Shrewsbury in Burton, who discussed their personal experiences in the SEND field and how their perceptions, approaches, and understandings had developed over time.
The pair talked about better provision across the board, in both mainstream and non-mainstream schools, brought about through meeting the individual needs of each young person. Melsa and Pam also spoke about inclusion within SEND and mainstream educational environments, discussing the positives and negatives, offering examples of when approaches worked and when they didn't.
After the opening key note, delegates broke off into groups to attend workshops, engaging in a meaningful dialogue and exploring approaches, issues, and new ideas, centred on the shared mission of providing children and young people with the best possible opportunities in life.
The last session of the morning was a presentation, Autistic and Proud, delivered by pupils of Bemrose School.
They spoke passionately about personal experiences of living with autism and explained how they deal with day-to-day life; how Bemrose has helped them develop a "social toolbox" to improve relationships and build identity; and highlighted the difference in processes between the neuro-typical and autistic brain.
Following the inspiring presentation, lunch was held in the University atrium, accompanied by the St Martin's Special School singers and band, who performed a number of contemporary pop hits for their receptive audience.
Dr Debs Robinson, Education Studies lecturer and conference leader, said: "There was a buzz of excitement and inspiration in the air and this was fuelled by the incredible presentations given by the young people of Bemrose School who told us about being 'autistic and proud' and the talented singers, drummers, and musicians of St Martin's Special School. Delegates listed these events as real highlights in their day, year, and even working lives!"
The afternoon session was opened by Brian Lamb OBE, who discussed whether new SEND reforms are making a difference to young people's lives: "We need something more than new legislation to facilitate change; we need a change in culture...research has shown that only one third of people asked were convinced the new code has impacted positively on SEN pupils' education."
Mr Lamb went on to discuss the need for a change in culture and how an engagement in conversation with parents has fundamentally changed individual teaching approaches in some cases. "All children must have their SEN needs addressed and have a specific care plan with personalisation at the centre."
After a second series of workshops, Dean of the College of Education, Lynn Senior, closed the conference and thanked all those who had attended for their participation and eagerness to better SEN provision.
Dr Robinson added: "Our keynote speakers and workshop leaders inspired us. The University of Derby commits itself to contributing to this spirit of togetherness and optimism. All of this was reflected in the proverb underpinning the event 'If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.'"
Mannie Hayer, who attended the conference, said: "A fantastic venue. I found the conference extremely informative. I hope I am able to come next year."