The Vale School located in Findon, West Sussex is a co-education school for children 4 to 12 years of age. First opened in 1951 the school has grown dramatically over the years and in 2013 a major redevelopment program of the site was completed to upgrade the facilities.
The Vale Schools mission statement is ‘VALUING ALL LEARNING EQUALLY’ and encourages children to participate in the interests of the schools future by running a school council. The school prides themselves on teaching their pupils the life skills and education to play an active positive role in society.
In winter 2013 the school ran a week of workshops focused on raising disability awareness. The week was called ‘In Your Shoes’. The whole school took part including teachers and a charity called Enable Me was invited to provide workshops focused on disability during the week.
Enable Me, based in Littlehampton West Sussex, is a charity that has been working with disabled people and the local community to raise disability awareness and help improve the lives of disabled people. Since 2005, they have provided workshops for children and other unique activities to provide children with the knowledge of disability through experiencing aspects of disability themselves. The workshops are run by a team of trained volunteers, the majority of whom are disabled.
Pupils at Vale School took part in workshops throughout the week. The children learnt how to paint with their feet and tidy up using their toes. They also worse SIM glasses to experience the effects of a visual impairment and learnt how to get around in a wheelchair.
The children engaged with the disabled volunteers from Enable Me and listened to their experiences. Their reaction was positive. Every child was interested and engaged.
“I felt sad when i first met someone with a disability but that went away once i got to know them. My favourite activity was curling, it was so much fun and our group was the loudest.” – Zoey (Year 7)
The physical involvement in the workshops meant that the children had fun whilst learning about diversity, personal development and how it feels to be disabled.
“We got the chance to have races in wheelchairs. It was great fun! We also did some curling, which involves skimming a disc with wheels across the floor towards a target. I really enjoyed the In Your Shoes week. I learnt that you shouldn’t judge people by the way the look or speak. Thank you for organising such a thought provoking week.”- Rachel (Year 7)
A disability can occur at birth or later in life. It is an impairment which can be physical, mental, sensory, cognitive, emotional, development or a combination of these. There are over 10 million people disabled in the UK which is approximately 15% of the population. 700 thousand are children under the age of 18.
Vale School has ensured that pupils with a disability have full access to the schools facilities to ensure that the child’s access to education is not affected in any way. Working together with the individual and their family, Vale School ensure that the child feels 100% part of the schools community and that their individual needs are met. The school has wheelchair access throughout.
The results of the In Your Shoes week have been very positive for the children. Their engagement and response to the week has been brilliant.
“All the pupils have been so positive towards the whole experience and the week was a huge success. The children engaged well with all aspects of the week and were keen to ask lots of questions.” – Dianne Neale (Assistant Head Teacher)
“All my friends enjoyed the week and were all really positive about disabilities. I really enjoyed the week and wish it had lasted longer. I feel that all children should have a week to raise disability awareness as we all learnt so much” - Zoey (Year 7)
After the week of workshops, the pupils were tasked with written and drawing projects about the experiences.
The work which was created reflected that of a positive, joyful experience that was both educational and promoted diversity. It is clear that the week has had a positive impact on all the pupils.
“In your shoes week was fantastic! We met different people with different disabilities. On Tuesday we met Alison, who had no arms; she showed us how she managed her daily routine. Such as, putting socks on just with her feet, dusting, cooking and much more! Also, Alison gave us some challenges like to draw with our feet. It was extremely difficult!” – Rachel (Year 7)
Enable Me ran a competition to create a their new company logo. Entries came flooding in and the results of the week shone through their work. After much deliberation, Morgan Woods was the overall winner. This was announced at an Enable Me event held at the Millennium Chamber, Littlehampton.
Our children of today are our future for tomorrow. By providing access to fantastic educational experiences such as the In Your Shoes week will help to break prejudice and create a society to be proud of.
Freedom of Speech is working with schools to raise disability awareness and to promote the use of Assistive Technology software for pupils with a disability. Breaking the barrier of the disability using Assistive Technology allows a child to flourish and achieve.
We are continuing to work with education establishments and have plans to run various disability focused events in the future.
If you would like to speak with us about Assistive Technology software and raising disability awareness, please get in touch with us.
Together we will provide our children with the right tools to succeed.