ysgol pen rhos

A special webinar will take place later this month to explore the principles used in the design of space for Special Education Needs (SEN) school projects and the importance of outdoor space.

The webinar, which is a partnership between the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) and HLM Architects, will take place on Friday November 27. It will also discuss the challenges that the current pandemic has generated, and how this has affected design in learner spaces.

Recent statistics revealed that there are more than 67,000 children with special educational needs in Northern Ireland’s schools, with the Education Authority’s support for children with SEN across mainstream and special schools reaching £311m in 2019-20.* Figures last year also highlighted that there were 140 special schools catering for particular types of disability and special needs in the Republic of Ireland.

Led by HLM Architect’s Catherine Ward, the webinar SEN Schools Today, will examine the principles used in the design of space for SEN/Additional Support Needs school projects. This will include what key aspects are important for learner experiences, such as colour schemes, creating a nurturing environment and sensory-based rooms through thoughtful design.

RSUA Director, Ciaran Fox said: “The pandemic has really brought into sharp focus the design principles for SEN schools. These learning spaces need to provide a stimulating environment for teaching, but they must also provide safety for some of the most vulnerable children in our society.

“We have fantastic speakers involved in the webinar, from both the design expert and end-user perspective and I am sure it will be a stimulating debate which will provide much food for thought.”

Catherine is an Associate Architect at HLM and the company’s SEN Lead. She has over twenty years’ experience in architectural practice, working predominantly on education projects throughout the UK including HE, FE, Schools, and SEN. In her role at HLM, Catherine manages the development of HLM’s special education portfolio and profile nationally.

Commenting on the upcoming webinar, she said: “We are living in a time of flux, and more than ever we need to make the most out of essential spaces for learners. The focus now needs to be on what can be done with spaces to provide safety, while maintaining supportive and effective learning for young people. I look forward to debating how we can use these ideas to develop and further enhance future learning environments.”

Also speaking at the webinar is Conor Houston, a director at leadership advisory firm Houston Solutions and trusted strategic advisor to leaders across government, business, and technology industries. As Chairman of the Board of Governors of Fleming Fulton Special School and founder of the civic initiative, Connected Citizens, Conor works to promote active citizenship and is passionate about creating the space for citizens to co-design solutions for our society.

Joining Catherine and Conor in the discussion will be Researcher for Psychology and Spaces, Holly Passmore. Holly is particularly interested in exploring how Covid-19 will impact children and young people’s current and future health, well-being and opportunities.

The webinar is part of a series of online events being hosted by RSUA this autumn.

To register for the webinar please visit https://www.rsua.org.uk/events/continuous-professional-development/design-principles-at-sen-schools-under-the-microscope/

*NI Audit Office

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