“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi
I have yet to realise my childhood ambition of becoming the Captain of the Starship Enterprise, but I did travel to the North Pole, obtain a Master’s degree, worked in Westminster, and volunteered in West Africa, where I delivered the first piece of disability legislation in Gambian history.
I am also a Person who is Deaf and a Person with Epilepsy.
Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by inspirational people, not least my family, who provided me with the platform and the encouragement for everything that followed, starting with school.
School was tough, but so was I.
Although I did not realise it at the time, those words of Gandhi epitomised my attitude to every wall that I ran into. Yet it would have been naïve to think that sheer willpower alone was going to achieve anything.
I had great special educational needs (SEN) support along the way.
Back when we had SEN statements, I had been assessed at a very young age and had been provided with every bit of the support that I needed to academically progress.
At Primary School, I had a speech therapist to assist with my communication difficulties, teaching assistants that supported me in the classroom, and open-minded teachers that made every effort to accommodate my learning requirements. I also had technical support with a radio aid, linked to my hearing aids, which enabled me to understand what my teachers were saying.
Whilst I did not manage to pass my 11-plus examinations, I did pass the entrance examinations for Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf.
With Mary Hare being a private school, it did not come cheap. Yet Lincolnshire Local Educational Authority (as it was then called) was once more considerate enough to cover my school fees.
Mary Hare School believes in preparing Deaf children for integration into the Hearing world and had a no-sign language policy in the classrooms. Nevertheless, the support that the school gives its pupils was world class as well as tailor made.
Classrooms were size limited to 12 pupils and organised in a manner that enabled us to observe specially trained teachers of the Deaf in an optimal way. I can still recall my Physics Teacher, Mr. Treasurer, who will forever remind me of Albert Einstein – hairstyle, eccentricity, all of it!
Pupils at Mary Hare School were further supported by its own audiology clinic, which not only ensured that our hearing aids were functioning properly, but provided us with headphones programmed to our individual hearing loss.
We were taught the national curriculum like everybody else and I left Mary Hare School with 10 GCSEs A-C and 3 A-Levels.
My educational experience up to 18 years old throws up an old question, particularly in light of the current momentum towards mainstreaming special needs provision. Yet I remain unsure to this day whether I could have succeeded quite as well without Mary Hare School. Perhaps I would not have got to Mary Hare School in the first place without the excellent SEN support that I had at primary school either?
This is an issue that I will give deeper reflection on and write a bit more about, as I continue to contribute on issues relating to special educational needs for TheSchoolBus blog, but that’s for another day.
Now, how do I enrol at Starfleet Academy?
Take a look at SEN on TheSchoolBus