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Special Schools and ALN Provisions Conference

60 Head Teachers, senior leaders and teachers from Special Schools and specialist provisions from across the region met for the first ERW conference of its kind on Tuesday October 10th. Betsan O’Connor opened the event with key messages about the challenges and opportunities ahead with ALN and curriculum reforms. Felicia Wood from Kate Cairns Associates delivered the Keynote with a focus on the ‘5 to Thrive’ model that has been developed by KCA and supports adults to build nurturing relationships based upon robust research and evidence from the world of neuroscience and child development. Many delegates were interested in using ‘5 to Thrive’ in their settings and ERW will be developing a plan to introduce it across the region.

Delegates then listened to presentations from: Ysgol Heol Goffa, Ysgol Hendrefelin, Carmarthenshire Teaching and Learning Centre (CTLC) and Canolfan Elfed. Head Teacher Nikki Symmons delivered a presentation which outlined the journey that she and her staff in Heol Goffa are on towards becoming an attachment and trauma informed school. Nikki shared data that clearly demonstrated the positive impact that these new approaches were having on both staff and pupil wellbeing. Jo Lee-Davies shared some of the attachment and trauma informed systems and process in place at Ysgol Hendrefelin and, like Nikki, was able to draw a strong link to improved wellbeing and learning. The benefits of using Emotion Coaching at CTLC was one of the areas discussed by Head of Centre Jo Antoniazzi who was able to share data that tracked the very significant reduction in exclusions. Finally, Rhiannon Stephens-Davies, Inclusion Centre Manager from Canolfan Elfed, co-presented with one of her Teaching Assistants on the positive impact that ‘Deescalate’ has had on reducing the need for physical interventions.

The afternoon sessions provided delegates with updates on ALN reform, the new Estyn framework; ITE and Curriculum for Wales. Charlotte Thomas, Welsh Government’s Head of ALN Transformation, explained the reasoning behind some of the amendments being made to the Bill as well as summarising the recently published national mission document. A presentation was made by Aron Bradley, Deputy Head Teacher of Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn, on the new Estyn framework. Suzie Smith from Ysgol Crug Glas was able to provide an account of her experience of being inspected under the new framework. Lizzie Swaffield from UWTSD outlined the plans for extending the opportunities within ITE for students to spend time in specialist settings. Julie Kay, Head Teacher of Ysgol Penmaes was able to provide more information as she has been instrumental in driving this development. The day was rounded off with curriculum pioneers giving updates on 4 of the 6 AoLEs: Health and Wellbeing ( Janet Oyston, Ysgol Heol Goffa and Sue Warden Ysgol Hendrefelin); Maths and Numeracy (Frederica Bryan Cardwell, Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn); Language Literacy and Communication (Suzie Smith, Cruglas and Anna Vivien Jones ERW ); Expressive Arts (Rachel George, Ysgol Maes Y Coed and Ellen Jones, Ysgol Cedewain).

Jonathan Roberts, Head Teacher Ysgol Hendrefelin, summarised and closed the day with some key positive messages around the necessity and benefits of collaborative working in order to benefit all learners in our schools.