Dawn House School Pupil Participation Conference – thoughts from Virginia Beardshaw, CEO of I CAN

Before the October half term, I was thrilled to be able to visit Dawn House School for the third annual Pupil Participation Conference. The purpose of the event is to bring organisations, parents and mainstream pupils together to hear about SLCN and explore what it means for the young people at Dawn House themselves. The conference is build around workshops given by Dawn House School pupils, experts in the field of SLCN and specialists from local services.

The Conference is a real opportunity for our young people, who all have severe and complex speech, language and communication needs, to educate delegates at this event about what SLCN means for them and how they can help to support their needs.  It is also a chance for our young people to meet with other pupils from local schools. We were delighted to have ten students from Beech Hill School in Mansfield come along to the event.

It was a fantastic opportunity for our staff to engage with experts in this field, including Dr. Judy Clegg from the University of Sheffield which has a long-term partnership with I CAN. Dr. Clegg has been leading research which is building an evaluation of the school. The research has shown that young people are successful in achieving positive futures for themselves. I was also very interested to learn about what parents and students themselves valued about Dawn House School. In addition to Dr Clegg, we also had representatives come along from CAMHS, Mencap, Nottinghamshire Police Force, Notts Local Authority, Notts Bereavement Service, DynoVox and Portland College.

A very inspiring part of the day for me was hearing from Abby Beverley about how she lives her life with her speech, language and communication difficulties. She spoke eloquently about the ups and downs she experiences on a daily basis, and especially those challenges she faced when she was at school. She is now living and working as an artist, having achieved a degree in Textiles.

I find the young people at Dawn House an inspiration. They have often come from turbulent educational backgrounds, and have a daily struggle being able to speak, understand and interact with the world around them. It was wonderful to see the students being so involved in the day and the students and staff engaging so positively in this evemt. I’m thoroughly looking forward to next year’s conference!