TeachAbilityUK Pupil Conference

An exhausting week finished on Friday with our inaugural TeachabilityUK Pupil Conference at Liverpool FC. Thanks to the brilliant administration from Teresa, our office manager, the day went swimmingly from an organisational point of view. I hope that many of the educational objectives were also met.

Here are the highlights:-

  • Kevin Carey inspiring the pupils with his braille computer, which has now been manufactured in the thousands. It is designed to support countries where resources are scarce. This was Kevin’s first return to the Anfield stadium since 1970 and a loud ‘thanks’ to LFC who gave him a special tour at the end of the day.
  • Dave Kelly, head of the charity DAISY UK, giving a summary of his journey to blindness, peppered with one-liners. He was like Ken Dodd with a cane. Genuinely funny and genuinely committed to his community. The children loved it.
  • Some Y6 pupils and older students from St Vincent’s School for the Blind presenting some of their ideas from recent workshops, all around the theme of visual impairment and technology. A scooter with sensors, and a watch called ‘Sensasation’ impressed Kevin in particular.
  • 100 children working in groups of around 8 to come up with their own technological ideas. They then presented these to Dan Carden MP, our local MP and Shadow Minister for International Development. In a short space of time, most groups came up with some very well-formed ideas, and communicated them confidently.
  • Lunch. It was very tasty. And how fulfilling to treat Y6 pupils like proper delegates. They now have an idea of how the corporates enjoy matchday
  • Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the Select Committee for International Development, speaking a little about his work in parliament. Stephen introduced the afternoon’s theme – how we can support developing countries with the advances in technology?
  • Paul Bradshaw from School Improvement Liverpool giving some very salient advice to the pupils about the merits and dangers of mobile technology and social media. This set up the afternoon task.
  • Pupils from Waterloo, Sierra Leone, appearing on the screen asking for advice about smart phones, which they may well be using in the near future. In their groups, the children had to reply with  a short video.
  • Watching these mini-films back on the big screen. The variety took me by surprise, as did the entertainment value – one or two were very lively. The best two or three will be sent over to Sierra Leone to be used as a learning tool in the town’s library.

A shoal of other adults were there too – Inspector John Sacker from Merseyside Police; members of the Rotary Club including Pierre from The Gambia; students from the North Liverpool Teaching School Partnership; Steve, the managing director of Communications Plus O2 and his wonderful ‘gurus’; Martin, the acting director of the Liverpool FC Foundation, plus the ultra-positive Dr Patterson from St Vincent’s. And many more.

Their support is so encouraging.

For whatever reason, children with disabilities and special educational needs are finding things tough in schools in England, never mind in developing countries. Fearing the strains placed on resources, or the impact on overall educational attainment, schools are nervous about prioritising inclusion as a key part of their development.

TeachabilityUK seeks to celebrate it instead, and promote a ‘can-do’ attitude, so energetically lived out by Rainbow and many of the other students at St Vincent’s School for the Blind. Crucially, it also shows that a creative and rich curriculum can provide all pupils with a real purpose to learning. What better way to discuss technological development that through its practical application in a partner country?

I am extremely grateful to all the people who supported this first conference and to the four schools who joined All Saints on the day: Robert Bellarmine, English Martyrs, Anfield Road and St Vincent’s.

Next year, the aim is for a second pupil conference that involves pupils from other parts of the UK and other countries, including Sierra Leone. The focus will be on how music can be a conduit to effective inclusion. Excitingly, the conference will have a ‘Day 2’ – for school leaders and teachers.

This is collaborative education for the common good, rather than education as a vehicle for competitive individualism.

At least that’s the hope.

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