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Dawn House School Pupil Participation Conference

Students, staff, parents and visitors all came together at I CAN’s Dawn House School on the 14th of October for the annual Pupil Participation Conference, entitled, ‘Back to Basics’. The conference focused on the importance of the challenges faced by young people with communication needs and their families.

The conference had students and staff visiting for the first time from St Catherine’s School on the Isle of Wight and from Percy Hedley School in Newcastle. Both schools are specialist provisions with a similar focus to Dawn House School and all students attending the conference have speech, language and communication needs. On the evening before the conference, everyone enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by the Dawn House School catering staff and then an evening of leisure and socialising in the residential setting; with everyone getting on really well.  On the day of the conference everyone thoroughly enjoyed the interactive drama performance ‘The Michael Meddle Show’. The play explored the different perspectives, opinions and relationships a young person with anxiety experiences as well as the impact it has on their family; a topic that greatly resonated with the students, parents and staff from all schools. Alan Dawson works as a local playwright and his plays often focus on challenging issues relating to the lives and experiences of young people with special needs and his company certainly made their usual impact!

Workshops attended by students focused on the way the teenage brain operates and the impact this has on their emotional and mental wellbeing. ‘The Teenage Brain’ was run by Jo Stockdale, who specially visited Dawn House School for this workshop and there is hope that there will be a repeat, more in-depth workshop in the future. A ‘Mindfulness’ workshop was run by yoga teacher, Emily Haslam Jones, who provides yoga in school for Dawn House School pupils and ‘Chillax’ was run by the Dawn House School Occupational Therapy team. The workshops received excellent reviews from pupils with many citing ‘being able to relax better’ as one of the main things they learned. Family members were also able to access these workshops, as well as opportunities to discuss support services for children and young people with communication needs.

During the coffee break and lunchtime everyone enjoyed the opportunity to mingle, chat about what they had learned and to sample some more culinary treats courtesy of the Dawn House School catering team. The food and hospitality were very well received by students, staff and visitors.

The event was rounded off by a heartfelt talk from the father of a former Dawn House School pupil, detailing the support and challenges faced by his son during several years at the school. Bob Reitemeier, I CAN’s Chief Executive, also spoke about the school’s successes and the great achievements of pupils past and present.

A few quotes from the adults who attended:

“A great day. this parent participation conference is one of my favourites and most useful.”

“I always learn something new and helpful at these type of events.”

“Well done- the best conference to date!”

Thank you to everyone that attended, especially students and staff from St Catherine’s School and from Percy Hedley School. A truly memorable day.