Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Great Learning Environments for Special People

I spent yesterday at BCSE's (British Council for School Environments) excellent conference 'Designing for Special Needs' - creating learning environments for children and young people with special education needs.

The importance of this much needed conference was demonstrated by the waiting list of people trying to attend. It is, for some reason, unusual for conferences to consider SEN learning environments across all phases and the format and quality of speakers was just fab - it needs to be repeated.

Attended by educators, architects, local authorities and just one computer company (RM) the conference considered just so many aspects. These included policy matters, the new DCSF Building Bulletin 102, led by architect John Jenkins (this comes into effect on the 1st December 2008) and went on to consider many innovative and exciting new schools being developed or recently opened. The impact of appropriate well designed learning environments was movingly presented by students and staff in a video about the new Sir Michael Tippett School and from Sue Bourne, Headteacher of the new wonderfully designed The Avenue School in Reading.
The amazing presentation by Toby Hewson of charity; 'Just Different' stressed the importance of designers just asking and listening to the voice of SEN students for whom the new facilities are being designed - how often do we keep saying this?? Even in this blog listening to students is such a common theme! Having profound special needs does not mean you don't have a very clear view of what environments would really work for you!

A powerful presentation,with several video clips by Carol Allen (North Tyneside LA) about the power and potential of innovative but well integrated ICT resources for students with severe learning difficulties really completed the picture.

There was a lot in this conference and everyone I spoke to thought it probably one of the better and most useful conferences put on recently. (One success criteria was that although the venue was in the middle of Oxford Street, no one seemed to sneak out shopping - that must say something!)

Thanks BCSE - a good one!

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