Monthly Archives: July 2011

Barbara to make BATA bigger and better

The British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) has been making its presence felt in recent weeks with a highly publicised export seminar and news that they have appointed Barbara Phillips, CBE, as Executive Director.

Martin Littler and John Crick at BATA export seminar
Martin Littler and John Crick at BATA export seminar

With recent gloomy predictions for companies in the educational technology sector, it was feared that BATA, which represents assistive technology companies at home and overseas, would disappear.

Martin Littler, chair of BATA, has bounced back from recent setbacks. His own company Inclusive Technology has had to shed jobs and will not be sponsoring the Special Needs Fringe at the Hilton in 2012.

He feels that buoyant export markets will offer, “significant business opportunities” in the coming months. While sales are falling in the USA and in Britain, there may be opportunities for companies in emerging markets such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and The Gulf States.

New blood Barbara Phillips

BATA is not just a trade organisation. It also campaigns on behalf of disabled people who need assistive devices to remain independent, to communicate and to access education and training.

To strengthen this role they have just appointed Barbara Phillips as Executive Director. A former senior civil servant, she has the vision and clout to raise BATA’s profile, “We want to change public perception of assistive technology and make it more accessible to those whose lives would be better through its use. Being able to bring about change like that is what motivates me – and I like a challenge!

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.”

Leicester Lions and Eye Gaze help Teresa to communicate

tobii eye gaze in action
tobii eye gaze in action

2011 is The National Year of Communication which highlights the importance of good communication skills for children and young people. Some of those children need help from technology if they are to have a voice.

Last week, I was invited by Northgate Managed Services to an event called “Engage, Evolve, Excel”. It had Professor Stephen Heppell as the keynote speaker and was an ICT showcase for the great work done in Leicester schools.

There I met Teresa, a year 11 pupil from Ash Field, a day and weekly boarding special school.  She demonstrated a Tobii Eye Gaze system that lets users with severe physical disabilities control their computer just by using their eye movements.

Her school had bought the system but the camera was provided by Leicester Lions Speedway.  Teresa uses Eye Gaze to access her communication device which enables her to speak. The school invited some Leicester Lions into assembly and Teresa used her Eye Gaze to deliver her presentation thanking them for their fundraising efforts.

What a difference a bit of kit can make!