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Ideas, enthusiasm and insight at our SEND-focused business breakfast

Published: Nov 19, 2021 5 min read


Our latest business breakfast focused on engaging with SEND pupils to enrich STEM talent pipelines – and turned out to be one of the most enthusiastically received sessions yet!

More than 100 people joined via Microsoft Teams and shared resources, ideas and insight. Also, some fantastic connections were made in the chat between the team at STEM Learning, employers and educators which will help improve future STEM outcomes for SEND students.

Our bid development officer and chair Liz Whitworth kicked things off by welcoming everyone to the session and introducing the first panellist - Sharon Burt, CEO at Solent Academies Trust.

Sharon mentioned that research has shown that adults with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed, and outlined some of the inspiring and valuable work the Trust have been doing to address this disability employment gap. As she said, “with the right support, and the right opportunities, their potential can be realised.”

The Trust offers a wide range of training and work experience projects for SEND students which gives them an opportunity to learn new skills, see how these skills can be transferred to the workplace and boost their confidence. Just one terrific example is the ‘Southsea Sanders’ – a group who create wooden items to be sold in their local community. You can find out more about the Trust’s projects on their website here.

Dave Gibbs, Senior Subject Specialist for Computing at STEM Learning, followed up by outlining the importance of accessible computing resources and adaptable learning strategies for SEND students. He said: “Computing is a real avenue for supporting expression and creativity. In our consortiums we are doing a lot to support SEND students – and it’s fair to say we can probably do more.”

He explained that using methods such as different fonts, changing layouts, adding subtitles and dual coding (using words and pictures) can be extremely useful for SEND students in computing. He also suggested that practical items (eg assisted keyboards) can be very useful too – but are often lacking in schools.

Dave signposted a series of useful SEND related CPD courses and resources:

The next panellist was Victoria Rigby - Education Consultant, Senior Leader and Executive Coach at Victoria Rigby Consultancy. She opened her presentation with a compelling and impactful YouTube video from the National Autistic Society which has had more than one million views. The two-minute virtual reality clip is designed to recreate the experience of an autistic child in an overwhelming environment. Watch it here.

Many of the participants agreed this gave a real insight into the challenges experienced by a young person with SEND on a daily basis. Victoria discussed some of her recent work in training teachers to improve their confidence and ability in delivering the STEM curriculum to SEND students. She explained that STEM subjects are very adaptable and can span across other subjects. She also described her passion and enthusiasm for the ways in which ENTHUSE Partnerships and STEM Ambassadors to broaden skills and understanding.

The final panellist was Brenda Yearsley, UK Education and Social Innovation Manager at Siemens. She revealed that they have more than 700 STEM Ambassadors who aim to inspire and excite young people and help them identify a pathway to a STEM career – and you can check out Siemens’ inclusion resources here.

They enjoy a great relationship with Lancasterian School, a community special school in Manchester, which had led to work experiences opportunities at Siemens for SEND students. After Covid severely impacted these face to face opportunities, they worked to improve their virtual offering, and received fantastic feedback on this from SEND students as it helped them overcome some of the barriers and limitations of conventional work experience.

This relationship has now progressed into an official ENTHUSE Partnership. Lancasterian School will be the lead school, and 6 other schools in the area will benefit too. Here’s how schools and colleges can benefit from an ENTHUSE Partnership…and click here to find out more about the benefits for employers.

Thank you to everyone who attended this latest breakfast which received glowing feedback – including on social media!

The next virtual Business Breakfast is on Tuesday 30 November, 9am-10.30am, and asks ‘Where does supporting STEM education fit within your business ESG strategy?’. Sign up here.

If you were unable to attend this session and would like a copy of the recording and materials from it please contact employers@stem.org.uk clearly stating which business breakfast you are interested in. Or, if you want to speak to us about how you might support us with any of our programmes, please contact Liz Whitworth l.whitworth@stem.org.uk for an initial conversation.