Category Archives: awards


FREE Science unit for every UK school

Tell your friends. Sunflower is offering a FREE science pack to every single secondary school in the UK. Click here to register your school

Back before Christmas I had a very nice breakfast in Canary Wharf. It is not the sort of thing I usually do. In fact it was the only time I have breakfasted there but I was meeting Elizabeth Kelly, Director of Schools Operations. We were there to talk about the new science curriculum and the units they were producing for Sunflower for Science

Sunflower has animations for DNA, Natural Selection, Electromagnetic Spectrum, Chemical Reactions and Heat Transfer modules which many teachers enjoyed at Bett his year.

Obviously I was interested in the special needs angle but in fact Sunflower’s materials are differentiated so they cover everyone from young people struggling with basic concepts in science to those who are on the gifted and talented register and are aiming for University or a career in the sciences.

Atoms and ions, bonding, diffusion and the periodic table are just a few of the units for chemistry and many pupils will enjoy following the story of the carbs, fat and protein in a pizza. Every programme comes with worksheets activities, quizzes and sample lessons.

‘One of the key features of Sunflower Science,’ Elizabeth told me, ‘is to make sure that teachers can deliver modules in scientific subjects outside their own specialism.’

Schools can buy one module at a time, ideal for those on a tight budget, but why not start with your freebie?

Caroline Wright, BESA and the House of Lords

Caroline Wright of BESA
Caroline Wright of BESA

Tonight I am meeting Caroline Wright face to face. I interviewed her for Merlin John Online 
We have emailed and talked on the phone so much that I feel as if I know her quite well but in fact we met just once – very briefly – at the farewell do for Ray Barker.

Caroline is not the new Ray. Nor is she a replacement. One thing I have learnt is that as the new director at BESA Caroline will put her own stamp on the organisation. She has a formidable pedigree with extensive overseas experience which will be of great benefit to the UK software community but she also has great charm

Most importantly she has a very clear set of values: ‘Education matters and is always likely to be featured in the first few pages of a newspaper because it is relevant to most of the population. We have all had an education and we nearly all know someone who is having one now. The role as a director at BESA ticks every box for me. I love education and this job lets me be part of a team and puts me back at the heart of strategy and delivery.’

Tonught I shall enjoy being BESA’s guest at their annual House of Lords reception.

Ray Barker retires from BESA

Last night was the end of an era for the British educational software industry as Ray Barker, director of BESA, retired.

Ray worked as a teacher, a multimedia publisher and ran an Education Action Zone before joining BESA. He was chair of judges for the BETT awards and was a regular commentator on changes in government legislation which affected the purchasing power of schools.

There are many ‘experts’ in the educational software industry but Ray really knew his stuff. He was a great networker, very pragmatic and found ways of making things work, often against the odds. He was a good friend to the special needs community. He had a particular interest in literacy and was keen to see a division of spoils which gave everyone a more equal chance. He was a very talented political animal and will be much missed. His successor at BESA is Caroline Wright who has a wealth of experience in government departments as well as in the public and private sector.

At his farewell do at the City of London Club, many representatives from the press, software companies, schools and key educational organisations turned out to wish him well.

Pictured here from left to right are are Ann Crick, Sal McKeown, John Crick (Crick software), Ray Barker, Mick Archer (former editor of Special Children magazine), John Galloway (journalist and adviser in Tower Hamlets), Carol Allen (special needs adviser for North Tyneside) and Amanda Peck from Mayer Johnson software

Let the Games Begin!

MissionMaker software

I do like it when children get a chance to make and do, instead of just being consumers. I particularly like it at Christmas when companies are falling over themselves to sell us things we do not want, need or even like.

So I was very pleased to see that Immersive Education which produces the award winning games-making software MissionMaker is solving parents’ problems with a special offer in the Sunday Times.

Just think – instead of your children engaging in acts of bloodthirsty warmongering online, they can create their very own! If you have a creative in your family they can make the professional 3D computer game of their dreams because the software comes with a library of backgrounds, audio and video and special effects as well as props and characters.

Even better they can share the games with their friends online. With a bit of luck this will guarantee a calm and hassle free holiday period for families with gaming enthusiasts.

Until the end of December 2011 parents can buy MissionMaker for just £25. Find out more HERE

Be a creator this Christmas, not a consumer!

Final Countdown to BETT special needs awards

The shortlists for the BETT awards have been announced and there are seven candidates left in the running for the ICT Special Educational Needs Solutions award:

Soundbeam 5, uses motion sensors to help those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities to create music.
VOICEYE, Forcetenco makes Word documents accessible to those who need learning print or speech support

shortlisted- resources for deaf people
Signed Stories

Signed Stories, ITV SignPost. At last, there is a nomination which benefits the deaf community. It has a host of stories with a strong visual appeal in British Sign Language (BSL) and subtitles to be shared with hearing family and friends .
Something Special – Out and About, BBC. To celebrate the 100th episode of the very popular programme Something Special the BBC has a new website with lots of accessible games and of course Mr Tumble
Boardmaker Studio, Mayer-Johnson comes with device overlays and starter templates for hundreds of activities including maths surveys, quizzes and games. Students can record and playback their own audio recordings for speech and language activities.
Matrix Maker, Inclusive Technology. This has a mass of templates, symbols, pictures and resources. It will help teachers and therapists make communication overlays as well as worksheets, timetables labels and games.
Smooth Talker from Inclusive Technology is a really simple single switch communicator for special schools and early years settings. It will help children to develop basic communication skills

All will be revealed at the awards ceremony on Wednesday 11 January 2012 at the Hilton, Park Lane, London and on this site on 12th January.

Real Training recognises the most special school

There is some amazing work done in special schools and yesterday I met many teachers from schools shortlisted for the TES Award for Outstanding Special Needs School of the Year.

The finalists were:
The Bridge School, Telford, Shropshire
Frank Wise School, Banbury, Oxfordshire
James Brindley School, Birmingham
Newman School, Rotherham
The New School Butterstone, Dunkeld, Perthshire
The New School at West Heath, Sevenoaks, Kent

Pupil from Newman School shows Lorraine Petersen and Sal a magic trick

This award was sponsored by Real Training which specialises in online training courses such as the National Award for SEN co-ordination, an essential qualification for Sencos and the Certificate of Competence in Education Testing which means schools can use in-house expertise to assess children.

The ceremony took place at Park Lane Hilton with comedian and impressionist Rory Bremner as host. I was sitting with Lorraine Petersen, CEO of nasen the professional body for special needs staff. One young man from Newman School in Rotherham is a member of the magic circle and entertained us between main course and pudding with card tricks.

Mark Turner far right with winning school

The winning school was New School at West Heath in Sevenoaks, an independent school with a therapeutic unit which specialises in treating children who are severely traumatised. The school’s motto is “Rebuilding damaged lives” and they work with children from all over the country who have been abused or neglected.

At the end of the ceremony Lorraine Petersen turned to me and said, “Every day the government criticises schools and says the standards are not high enough. Events like this prove just how wrong they are.”

Mark Turner, Managing Director of Real Training, was delighted with the awards. He said, “I am so proud that Real Training can sponsor an award like this. Today, we have seen so many positive examples of excellent work in special schools which turns children’s lives around.”