SENAD Group support Derby Uni students’ work on community SEND projects

Four University of Derby students who have provided community support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are the first recipients of a new prize from one of the UK’s leading providers of specialist education and care.

The Derby-based SENAD Group has sponsored the prizes of £500 each in recognition of the civic contribution made by the students.

Between them, the inaugural winners, all third-year students from the University’s BA (Hons) Special Educational Needs and Disabilities degree programme, have developed sport and physical activities, research-based therapies, methods for managing emotions and opportunities for children to interact with animals.

While studying for her degree at Derby, Samantha Hilton’s placement at The Island Project Farming and Education Centre in Derbyshire saw her deliver sessions focused on the mental health and wellbeing of children by building their rapport with the centre’s animals.

Samantha developed a more ‘hands-on approach’ and taught herself Makaton sign language which she could incorporate in sessions through a ‘Simon Says’ game, based around welfare needs of the animals at the centre.

She said: “This prize has enabled me to realise and value my own work and achievements in such a hard year for all, especially children and young people with SEND. My degree provided a placement which incorporates animal-assisted interaction, and the changes I saw within the children has inspired me to further my education on therapy which incorporates animals.”

Amelia Goodhew created a physical activity programme with targets designed to meet social, emotional and sensory needs. The SHINE programme, which operates in the Coventry and Warwickshire area, has progressed to delivering one-to-one sessions to 23 children aged between three and 13 years old. The sessions are delivered at home, schools and other locations in the community.

Amelia, who worked as a teaching assistant before enrolling on the degree course at Derby, said: “Winning the SENAD prize award means the world to me, as it has aided me in showing my value as a SEND professional. The award has also helped us to access more funding and open our community SHINE project to more participants across Rugby, as well as continuing to support participants in Coventry and Warwickshire.”

She will soon begin a new role as SEND lead for the Coventry-based Positive Impact Group, working to deliver alternative provision for children.

Leila Holman researched the value of resonance boards, which use sound to assist sensory learning, in the Derby school at which she worked as a teaching assistant. She put together a training programme which enabled staff to use the boards for creative sessions, focused on increasing non-verbal communication. As a result, the boards are now used across her school and have helped to enhance children’s communication skills.

She said: “It means so much that my contribution to the SEND community has been noticed not just by myself, but by others, which has given me a real confidence boost and inspired me to keep going and keep pushing myself to be the best practitioner I can be.

“It has given me a real lift in such a difficult time and showed me that it is always worth carrying on, being myself and doing what I believe in.”

Emily Humphries has been volunteering to help children with SEND since she was 12 years old, which has led to a career in a primary school, while continuing to volunteer in the Scouting movement, as well as working for the Staffordshire-based charity Ourspace.

Her interest in how one of the schools she volunteered with managed behaviour and taught self-regulation led to the development of her own practice of one-to-one support. This allowed flexibility for children to manage their own emotions, and to ensure there is always a calming environment after a child has experienced a distressing situation.

Emily said: “SEND has always been a huge factor in my surrounding life and it’s amazing to be recognised for my continuous work within the SEND community. It has brought so much pride and determination going forward and this achievement will stand out as I progress throughout my career into SEND teaching.”

Brian Jones, SENAD Group Executive Chairman and University of Derby honorand, said: “Supporting the SEND experts of the future is hugely important to us at the SENAD Group, as we continue to develop best practice to ensure that all children and young people with special education needs and disabilities’ are given every opportunity to maximise their potential. I would like to congratulate the four University of Derby students who have been awarded a SENAD Group sponsored prize, their ingenuity, hard work and dedication to the projects they have worked on is outstanding.”

Trevor Cotterill, Programme Leader for Education Studies and SEND at the University of Derby, said: “We are delighted that The SENAD Group has so kindly sponsored these new prizes for our students. They shine a light on the brilliant work being done to support children with special educational needs by our students in their workplaces and local communities.

“As an applied university, we take huge pride in knowing that our students are using their knowledge, understanding and skills to provide practical solutions which bring real and lasting benefits to children’s lives.”

In addition to the prizes, SENAD has also pledged a £3,000 scholarship to one student enrolling in this year’s post graduate School Direct with Qualified Teacher PGCE, with SEND pathway, following their transition from a University of Derby undergraduate programme.