Yesterday was the culmination of much hard work from Sarah Bedwell @flymygreekflag and LindaHopkins @LindaHopkins38. They had been planning this event for some months, and what an event it was! 

I saw it being promoted on Twitter and loved the idea as its only an hour from where I live. I contacted my good friend Carolyn @clyn40 and suggested we go. By the time Carolyn answered me I had agreed with Sarah that we would go and we would present a joint workshop. Carolyn was a little taken aback to say the least! 

We worked on our presentation at top speed as although we actually live close to each other we are both very busy and don’t spend much time together. We knew we wanted to do something about children with SEND and how our two environments differ. That was our starting point. We also knew we wanted the views of the delegates so we had a direction of travel. 

Come the day we arrived a little late and sadly missed Mark Anderson’s key note. I heard that it was  excellent and thought provoking, just what you expect from Mark. Then our first session was from @reachoutASC who talked us through why children with Autism struggle with writing. We had a practical activity to complete and both Carolyn and I failed dismally. Lynn’s session was full of practical tips and advice and there was a collective chorus of groans as her session came to an end. We were up next and Lynn was going to be a hard act to follow. 

After break it was our session. We hadn’t had chance to practise together at all and the room was packed! It was a little daunting when we saw all the people there but we took it in our stride and got on with it. I talked about my little special school where our children are sometimes incredibly poorly. They may be tube fed, oxygen dependent and have profound and multiple needs. The staff are almost on a 1:1 with the children as the needs are so high. Within our classes we may have desperately poorly children alongside children with ADHD and others with challenging behaviours. I talked about how the classrooms are set up and how our children are quite often sheltered although we encourage independence wherever possible. Carolyn then talked about the contrast with her FE college. Some of our children move from our nurturing environment to her college where suddenly they acquire newly found freedom. They are allowed off the premises at lunchtime and can even visit the local pub if they want to. This is obviously discouraged and frowned upon but is in stark contrast to my environment where our 18 year olds even ask permission to visit the loo as the school environment dictates.  

We asked our delegates to write their views on post it notes to add to the discussion. The overwhelming consensus of opinion was that my children should leave us and go to college when they are ready to prepare them for later life. There then followed some questions about how mainstream children view our very poorly children. From my point of view there are some who can cope with college and some for whom it just isn’t right. However, that’s for another post and one I’ve written on before. 

Jackie Ward @JordyJax then gave a very passionate presentation about her Pru and the children who are excluded from mainstream schools for no real reason. Such is Jax’s passion that she was in tears at the end of her workshop. 

Lunchtime found us chatting to friends old and new. I had seen Stephen Logan earlier in the morning and was keen to chat with him again. He’s a charming chap and so supportive of Carolyn and I when I told him this was our first time presenting. If you ever need an encouraging word, Stephen’s your man. I also finally got to speak to Julian Wood @ideas _factory. I’ve been tweeting Julian for a few years and am a huge fan of his. It was lovely to put a face to the man who is so helpful on Twitter. Alongside him was Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist who is always full of ideas and so free with his information and advice. Two cracking men together! I also met Rachel Smith @lancslassrach. I’ve been tweeting with Rachel since 2012 and have never met her. Now I have and can report that she’s a genuine and warm person, just as I thought. 

During the morning I briefly bumped in to @Gwenelope  and @oldandrewuk who were dashing along the corridors to set up their own sessions. I also met the very lovely @5N_Afzal, @teach_well and @Miss_Tinks. In fact I met so many people that it was worth the trip just for the people I met. 

The afternoon saw us in Stephen Tierney’s session. I was blown away by his presentation. @LeadingLearner is a true professional and speaks with a powerful presence and is so knowledgable about education and leadership. If you haven’t seen Stephen present at a conference somewhere put it on your ‘to do’ list. You won’t be sorry.  

Next we went in to Julian’s session on computing. Julian is a mine of information and he has inspired me to try some sorting  algorithms on Monday. Thanks Julian for a fantastic session. 

Last but very definitely not least was the closing speech. While we were waiting @lancslassrach gave the whole audience a taste of her knobs. She had brought them all the way from the Isle of Man just for us to share. Thank you Rachel!

Natalie Scott @nataliehscott, newly crowned TES Blogger of the Year talked us through her experiences in France. She also talked of her own recovery from hitting rock bottom and wanting to leave teaching to recovering and enjoying teaching again. What a fantastic lady. She told us she suffers from Imposter Syndrome and hates public speaking. Well there’s absolutely no need, she gave a very humbling and moving speech. 

Much of our day was spent with Mike Highton @isright and Lynn @reachoutASC.  Mike is a lovely man and he totally understands Carolyn and I. We all share the same sense of humour. He was in most of our sessions and gave us many a giggle. He likened Carolyn, Lynn and myself to Charlie’s Angels at one point. So we had to pose for the photo. 

After the whole thing finished a select few of us went to a nearby restaurant for drinks and nibbles. Among the crowd was James from @InnivateMySchl, Natalie Scott, Sarah and Linda, JordyJax, Lancslassrach, Mike Highton and Malcolm from @ClassCharts. I have never met Malcolm before but what a lovely man. I wish him every success with ClassCharts. 
So I just need to say thank you to Sarah and Linda for giving Carolyn and I the opportunity to deliver a workshop and thank you for hosting such a wonderful event. I take my hat off to you both for pulling it together. Thanks also to the people who made the day go well. I agree with Stephen Logan, the networking is an important part of the day. Here’s to #LLL17. 

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