Learning at Home and in the Hospital


Learning at Home and in the Hospital (LeHo), is an open education project sponsored by the European Commission, designed to ensure young people’s right to access to education. It focuses on making use of digital environments and tools to meet the needs of learners who aren’t able to access mainstream education, because of the effects of physical and mental illnesses.  

Leicester’s Children’s Hospital School (one of the BSF schools I work with) are the UK Hub for a project partnership which includes teams based in Belgium, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Spain, and forms an international network for home and hospital education through ICT.

The project launched in January 2014, and this month head teacher George Sfougaras and researcher Suzanne Lavelle traveled to Zagreb for the projects second meeting. George Sfougaras said, “We are dedicated to providing an excellent, quality education for those who are currently too unwell to attend their own schools”.

The project will carry out an international review of how technologies are being used to support the education of learner’s who are too ill to physically attend school, and design ICT-based solutions which will enable children in hospital, receiving home therapy, or who attend school part-time due to illness, to access education.

If you are a teacher, medical professional, ICT professional, parent/carer or student involved in home and hospital education, you can get involved by joining one of the projects national or international groups.

e-Safety Guidance: Supporting Learners on the Autistic Spectrum


Yesterday saw the launch of the Childnet STAR Toolkit . The toolkit offers practical advice and teaching activities to help schools explore internet safety with young people on the autism spectrum. The launch took place at Leicester’s New Walk Museum, in the beautifully just-refurbished Victorian Art Gallery.

The STAR toolkit is one of Leicester City Council’s DigiLit Leicester projects, a professional  development approach designed to make sure that staff have the confidence and skills to get the most out of the investment being made in technology for schools through the city’s Building Schools for the Future ProgrammeChildnet worked closely with three of Leicester’s SEN schools – Ellesmere College, Nether Hall School and West Gate School, to design the resource.

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet, said:

“The Childnet STAR toolkit is designed to give schools the building blocks they need to develop a tailored approach to online safety for their pupils with ASD. By working with Leicester City Council and three fantastic schools in Leicester we have been able to develop a practical online toolkit that addresses the online risks faced by young people living with autism spectrum disorder, such as cyberbullying, contact by strangers and exposure to inappropriate content. Importantly, this resource is available to all UK schools free online. Through the teaching activity ideas and forum we want to encourage educators across the country to use these resources, and also to feedback and share their ideas and materials so we can collectively and collaboratively provide excellent e-safety education for young people with ASD.”

The STAR Toolkit

The STAR Toolkit is designed to assist teachers in educating their pupils with ASD about the internet and support them in managing online risks.

The four sections –  Safe, Trust, Action and Respect – all feature the concept of friendship and emphasise the importance of finding the balance between online and offline interactions. At the same time, the resource promotes a positive, fun and safe experience for young people with ASD.

The online resource includes a forum to encourage educators to share their teaching ideas and how they have used and adapted the STAR Toolkit in their educational setting. This will provide a platform for sharing best practices in online safety for those working with young people with ASD.

The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Launch event in Leicester

The event was opened by Councillor Vi Dempster, Leicester’s Assistant City Mayor with responsibility for children, young people and schools. Councillor Dempster said:

“I’m really pleased to be launching this innovative resource as part of our commitment to transform learning through the Building Schools for the Future Programme.

“It’s vitally important that we keep young people safe online. This resource will help to tackle some of the challenges involved in ensuring young learners who could be more vulnerable are aware of the risks.”

“It will help make sure that all our learners get the chance to benefit from the many positive learning opportunities the internet can offer.”

Leicester In Minecraft! Young People Design New Buildings for their City

James (age 8, Dovelands Primary) Glass pyramid indoor park

James (age 8, Dovelands Primary School) Glass pyramid indoor park

To coincide with our Leicester in Minecraft event, and to celebrate the building work Leicester City Council is carrying out across the city, we invited children and young people between the ages of 6-16 who live or attend school in Leicester to create a building in Minecraft that would make Leicester even better. Entries came flooding in, amazing us with the creativity, ingenuity and thoughtfulness they demonstrated.

A huge thank you to every one who took the time to enter!

The judging panel

The panel looked at the creativity and imagination demonstrated by the entries, as well as technical skill and ability, and the building’s potential to make Leicester even better. The standard of entries was excellent – making the judging an extremely tough job.

Highly commended

James, from Woodland Primary (age 8),  Rufus Avenue Primary School (aged 8) and Abdulrahman, from Kestrels Field Primary School (aged 11) were all highly commended by the judging panel for their amazing creations.

James - glass pyramid indoor park (interior)

James (aged 8, Dovelands Primary School) glass pyramid indoor park (interior)

James writes:

I have chosen to create a massive glass indoor park, made from different coloured glass. There are pools on each side of the pyramid and underneath the floor is a large but shallow pool of water.  My pyramid has two open doorways on each side of the pools so that people can walk in and out easily.  Inside is an open space for anyone to enjoy, there are benches to sit on and sculptures to look at as well as the colourful view of the city. I chose to make this building because it is a very colourful sight and it is free for everyone to use!  It is a very different type of building for Leicester.

Rufus - Treehouse Library

Rufus (age 8, Avenue Primary School) Treehouse tree library

Rufus 2 Tree Library

Rufus (age 8, Avenue Primary School) Treehouse tree library (from below)

Rufus writes:

I have chosen to build a tree library.  It is basically a tree house with a library that has books about trees. I chose this building so children could learn more about trees.  There are lots of trees and parks in Leicester so it would be nice to have somewhere to learn about them.  I thought it would be exciting to make it in a tree house because it’s a library about trees.

Abdulrahman (aged 11, Kestrels Field Primary School) Hotel LOL

Abdulrahman (aged 11, Kestrels Field Primary School) Hotel LOL

Abdulrahman’s entry was Hotel LOL, an “extremely big and luxurious” hotel for homeless people, made with sand, brown wool, glass and oakwood.


The three winners selected by the judges are Sean from Montrose Primary School (aged 11), Oliver from St Cuthbert’s Primary School (aged 11), and Gurinder from Soar Valley Community College (aged 12).

Sean (aged 11, Montrose Primary School) Three in One Building

Sean (aged 11, Montrose Primary School) Three in One Building

Sean (aged 11, Montrose Primary School) Three in One Building - sweet shop and Korean barbeque seating

Sean (aged 11, Montrose Primary School) Three in One Building – sweet shop and Korean barbecue seating

Sean’s entry particularly impressed the judges with the level of detail and design of both exterior and interior design. The building provides sweets, comics, and Korean barbecue. Sean explained that families don’t all like the same thing, so his building provides something for everyone:

“I chose the look of the building to be different from others since it has a balcony on the second floor and it has windows on the roof. Also it has a water fountain at the front, which is a nice view. I chose this building because it is different, it has something for everyone.”



Oliver (aged 10, St Cuthbert’s Primary School) Under- and Overground Roller Coaster

Oliver 4

Oliver (aged 10, St Cuthbert’s Primary School) Under- and Overground Roller Coaster – birds-eye view

Oliver (aged 10, St Cuthberts Primary School) Under and Overground Roller Coaster - lava section

Oliver (aged 10, St Cuthbert’s Primary School) Under- and Overground Roller Coaster – lava section

Oliver’s entry was an dramatic under- and overground roller coaster – something currently missing from Leicester. The ride features scenic views of trees, vines, as well as having water and lava features. Oliver writes:

I chose to build a roller coaster for my Minecraft project. I thought about building a tall tower for Leicester so we have a famous land mark but then I wanted to have a bit of fun so I wanted to build something else and a roller coaster came into my head.  It has multiple vertical drops.

I’ve lived in Leicester for all my life. There are a lot of good things in Leicester but there are a few things missing, like some famous land marks. I thought about building a religious as we have lots of unique religions. I then thought about building a tall building like the Empire State building, but then I realised the main thing we were missing was a roller coaster.  I really love roller coasters, but there are no roller coasters in Leicester.

Gurinder (aged 12, Soar Valley Community College)  FUN HUB - crazy golf

Gurinder (aged 12, Soar Valley Community College) FUN HUB – crazy golf

Gurinder’s building was the FUN HUB, a multi-purpose activity centre with floors providing an ice skating rink (with “classes and fun disco nights”) and indoor crazy golf.  Gurinder writes:

This building is the FUN HUB. It is a multi purpose building with lots of fun things to do on every floor. There is a café and ice rink, crazy golf, restaurants with flavours from around the world, a library, terrace area. On the terrace you can sit to relax with a book, or go to the stargazing area in the evenings to look at stars with a cup of hot chocolate from the bar. The FUN HUB would be a cool place to go with friends and family, and I would want to take my relatives that visit Leicester to see the building. There are conference rooms and halls that have different workshops going on like cooking or baking classes, dance and beatboxing workshops and arts and crafts days.

More amazing entries

Eden 1

Eden (aged 10, Buswells Lodge Primary School) Leicester Sky Scraper

Eden’s sky scraper included a basement for “relaxing and looking at art or old items or fossils”, as well as a party room, and “awesome views of the city”.

Issac 1 - KR3 Hotel

Isaac (aged 8, Christ the King Catholic Primary School) King Richard III Hotel

Isaac writes:

I have chosen to create a hotel called ‘The King Richard the Third’ hotel. It has many floors which are all made out of different materials. There is a pub on the side with a swimming pool on the top and a number of rooms have balconies where people can sit outside. Each bedroom has a library and all are child friendly family size rooms. There is also a helicopter pad on the top in case any celebrities want to come and stay here.

Alijawad (aged 12, Soar Valley College) People's Art Gallery

Alijawad (aged 12, Soar Valley College) People’s Art Gallery

 Alijawad created a People’s Art Gallery:

You can give in your art so you won’t just look at art you can also give it in if you would like. This will encourage others to embrace their creativity and imagination.


Jill (aged 6, Dovelands Primary School) Leicester Airport - runway and the control tower

Jill (aged 6, Dovelands Primary School) Leicester Airport – runway and the control tower

Jill (aged 6, Dovelands Primary School) Leicester Airport - passengers boarding plane

Jill (aged 6, Dovelands Primary School) Leicester Airport – passengers boarding plane

Jill designed an airport for Leicester, with direct routes to Singapore.

Stan (aged 15, Beauchamp College) Learning Centre

Stan (aged 15, Beauchamp College) Learning Centre

Stan (aged 15, Beauchamp College) Learning Centre

Stan (aged 15, Beauchamp College) Learning Centre – entrance

Stan writes:

I have created a learning centre with many functions such as computer training, engineering and inventing. I have attempted to create a calming environment to learn in using balconies and plant life. It is elevated on a wall and I mainly used dark oak wood, spruce wood and cobblestone for the exterior with lots of flowers.

The entrance “includes hanging chandeliers and an underfloor area with shrubbery and a tree which protrudes up to the staircase.”

Thomas (age 11, Leysland High School) Underground School

Thomas (age 11, Leysland High School) Underground School


Thomas (age 11, Leysland High School) Underground School - utilities supply

Thomas (age 11, Leysland High School) Underground School – utilities supply

Thomas’s underground school design made use of solar panels and took into account environmental issues.



Minecraft Meetup – report & resources

Kicking off the Minecraft Meetup

Leicester City Council's BSF ICT strand is all about using technology to support learning, teaching, community development, and (very importantly) about having fun. So it was no surprise that the whole team were enthusiastic about supporting the ClubClub Minecraft Meetup event at LCB Depot, which took place on Saturday 18th May.

Around 180 people of all ages decended on LCB Depot for the Meetup, which included talks, activities, and competitions. We've rounded up all of the resources from the day in one handy place!

Check out photos from the event here!


Introducing Minecraft

Minecraft Papercraft

Minecraft Raspberry Pi

Minecraft Creative Competition

Minecraft Eyetracker

Minecraft PvP Competition

Minecraft Edu

Leicester Lo-fi

Thanks to everyone who made the day happen!


Introducing Minecraft

Joseph and Luke introduce Minecraft

Joseph Ishmael (16) and Luke Shortland (15) kicked off the day with an introduction to Minecraft.



Hi, we are Joseph and Luke.

We are very happy to be opening today's Minecraft event with a short talk to introduce Minecraft. We know there are a lot of people here today who know the game and play it a lot, but many of the parents here today will have no idea what Minecraft might be. So this talk is especially for you.

Minecraft is a creative game created by a Swedish programmer called Markus Persson “Notch”(as many people know him). The game was developed and published by Mojang in May 2009. The game is unique because it is mainly based on blocks and being creative.

Minecraft is available for different platforms. Personal computer (PC) was the original platform, the game runs on multiple operating systems including Windows, Mac OS X (for Apple computers) and Linux. Minecraft – Pocket Edition was released for Android phones in October 2011, and for iOS (Apple phones and iPad) in November 2011. This is a cut down version of the game that focuses on building and survival basics. Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition was released in May 2012. Minecraft: Pi Edition for the Raspberry Pi, allows players to use code to make things happen in the game world. it was officially released in February 2013. At the end of 2012 sales were at about 20 million across all platforms, with sales roughly even across PC, Xbox and mobile versions.

People of all ages all over the world play Minecraft –it is now even being used by teachers and educators to support learning.

The purpose of the game is to build and be creative at the same time, although you don’t have to do this you could simply spend your time fishing, hunting or mining and many other different things. You need to download the game onto your PC, or a version to play on your Xbox or mobile phone. We recommend the computer version – the updates are faster and there are more items and more ways to have fun.

You need to create an account – try and think of something you can remember and using a strong password is important. Try and think of a creative name that doesn’t need numbers if you can. Before you get started look at the controls – on the home screen, click on ‘options’ and then ‘controls’. You can familiarise yourself with the controls, or customise them if you like. If you forget you can take a look while you are playing. The default controls will be familiar to anyone who regularly plays games.

To get started, select ‘single player’ from the main menu. Then select create new world. It’s best to get start with ‘creative mode’ – you can select this on the single player menu. Then select ‘create new world’. You character will spawn (appear in the world) in a random location in the Minecraft world. You might see forests, deserts, plains, swamp land, jungle, or ice plains – there are many type of landscape. The game defaults to first person point of view (POV) so it will look like you are seeing out of your own eyes in the game.

In creative mode you can run, walk, fly and swim (technically jumping in the water) and explore your environment. Creative basically lets you be creative, you can get whatever you want and then just build very easily, this can also be very fun because you can spawn all the mobs in the game and fight them at your will. When you have finished looking around, press the ‘e’ button to bring up an available items menu. This includes all the blocks you need to build and survive, and also blocks with a range of different qualities. Put blocks into your inventory to use them. You can place them in the world by right clicking. In creative mode you can get whatever you want and then just build very easily, this can also be a lot of fun.

Blocks are what the Minecraft world are made of. There are many types of blocks – some blocks are only used for building (houses, shelters, walls), others have particular qualities. Soul sand blocks for example will slow you down if you try to walk across them. Other blocks, like glowstone, will light up the area they are in. In creative mode, you don’t have to make items or blocks – you just select them by clicking the e button.

In survival mode you have to work harder. Some blocks can be combined with other blocks to make items. Some blocks can be used to make components that can be used to make other items. Some blocks can be obtained by breaking them with your fist, however some harder materials such as diamond will require you to make a iron pickaxe to obtain them, to make one mine iron and coal, mix them in a furnace and then make an iron pickaxe to mine the diamonds.

Also experiment with blocks – for example putting a redstone torch (an inventory item you make from other items) near TNT will cause an explosion, which will destroy most blocks in the area. You really need to find out for yourself how to make items from blocks, but you can ask people who play the game. Learning how to make new blocks and blow things up is part of the fun.

A day and night cycle in Minecraft is 24 minutes – each minute represents one hour. Going into sleep mode will speed up the night time.

Mobs are living creatures in the game – for example chickens, creepers, squids, and witches. They spawn in random locations – unless you turn the game mode to peaceful, they will just turn up. Some of these are friendly, and some are hostile. Hostile mobs – including creepers, zombies, skeletons and enderman tend to spawn at night time. In creative mode mobs cannot hurt you, although they may attack you.

As well as creative mode, there is Survival mode. clearly from the name, you basically have to survive without being given anything to start with. This mode is here for playing the game in a challenging way. In survival mode you are encouraged to make a house and to find resources that will help you defend your self or you will die. You also must find a sustainable way of getting food so you don’t starve.

Hostile mobs will harm you in survival mode – some will hit you, fire missiles such as arrows or poison potions, some will even explode next to you. You start with 10 hearts – hearts represent how healthy you are – and being hit will deplete your hearts. You can increase your health by taking health potion. If you lose all your health your character will die – you will respawn in another random location, with full health but all of the items you were carrying in your inventory will remain in the place you died and you can only recover them by collecting them from there. Which is a big pain.

You can play in creative or survival mode as a single player, or when you are more confident, you can play in multiplayer mode. This means you play alongside other people who are online as well. In multiplayer you can fight against others, or work with them to build.

We play on an online server called citywars We have built a city, and we run it with other players who are city leaders. Everyone has jobs and roles in the city, for example, miners, police officers, hunters, priests. People trade, get taxed, create laws, develop their characters. You can build your own home in a city, and develop your skills, and attack other cities.

Any Questions?

A lively round of questions followed the talk, including debates on the best elements and the worst Mob. There were convincing arguments made from the floor for creepers and witches as the most dangerous foe, but the casting vote from the floor went to 'parents who make you get off the computer'.


Minecraft Papercraft

Minecraft chess set

As well as computer based activities, we had a papercraft room for people to cut and paste together their own Minecraft mini figures – including this amazing Minecraft chess set!

You can print your own Steves, creepers, and squids here:

The Ultimate Guide to Minecraft Papercraft! from Instructables

Minecraft Papercraft Chess from Pixel Paper Craft

The Standardized Papercraft from Minecraft Forums

For more activity ideas, check out this Minecraft Birthday Party post from Cupcake Stand, or search Pinterest for 'Minecraft Birthday Party'.


Minecraft Raspberry Pi



Artist/Researcher Sean Clark brought along a Raspberry Pi computer to demo Minecraft: Pi Edition, and also presented his Etch-a-Pi project – a Raspberry Pi controlled Etch-a-Sketch. If you are currently using Raspberry Pi computers or interested in finding out more, why not join the Leicester Raspberry Pi Users Group?

Find out how to use Minecraft Pi – check out this tutorial on getting started from Martin O'Hanlon.


Minecraft Creative Competition

build competition

Minecraft is a fantastic environment to create in. Our first competition of the day provided an opportunity for attendees to show off their creative skills. 50 young people created structures in only 15 minutes in Minecraft – including a reproduction of the Colosseum! Joseph, Luke and Johnny (all of who spend far too much time building in Minecraft) judged the competition, awarding points for imagination, skill, and build aesthetics.



First place went to Marcus Tilley (15), with runners up awards being made to Bluebell (5) and Ben Robin (7 and a half). Congratulations to the winners!


Minecraft Eyetracker

Dr. Stephen Vickers, research fellow at De Montfort University's Center for Computational Intelligence demonstrated eyetracker software for Minecraft. The MeyeNCRAFT project was developed for players with disabilities which prevent them from being able to use a mouse or keyboard, and lets users explore Minecraft or other games using only eye movements. Meetup visitors were able to have a go at playing Minecraft with their eyes!


Minecraft PvP Competition

PvP competition P1120198b


"Who's still alive?"

40 contestants battled Hunger Games style in our Player vs. Player melee. Players spawn without any equipment, and must find supplies, weapons and armour to enable them to be the last player standing. Luke Pillai (12) won the title of event PvP Champion.


Minecraft Edu

Secondary school teacher Stephen Elford (EduElfie) Skyped in to the event from Australia to talk about how he uses Minecraft in his classroom. You can check out EduElfie’s MinecraftEDU Youtube channel for video tutorials.

MinecraftEdu is a great resource for teachers and schools looking to make use of the power of Minecraft in the classroom, and offers discounted MinecraftEdu licences for educational use. You can find information, tutorials and resources over at the MinecraftEdu wiki.

Bond University used Minecraft as a teaching environment following floods – their campus was closed so they decamped to an online classroom.


Leicester Lo-fi

Leicester Lo-fi brought their Origami Pinhole Kits along to the event, so attendees could make their own low tech cameras, take photos and develop them.


Huge thanks to everyone who made the day happen!


As well as being a lot of fun, there was a huge amount of hard work and planning that went into the day.

First and foremost we want to thank all of the young people who came along. Everyone was brilliant, and the event wouldn't have run as smoothly as it did without all of the peer support that went on – young people helping out other young people.

Chris Slowe is Project Coordinator at LCB Depot and runs Club Club. The hugely successful Minecraft Meetup was Club Club's inaugural event – you can find out more about Club Club over at their Facebook page.

Joseph, Luke and Johnny wrote and gave the introductory talk, judged the build competition and helped other young people out all day. They also helped us carry the computers!

The Leicester City Council Building Schools for the Future ICT Team (Lucy Atkins, David Beere, and me, Josie Fraser) all helped out. We provided the papercraft, organised and set up the computers, ran the competitions and roped other people in 🙂

Dr Stephen Vickers organised and did more than there is space to list! Special thanks for making sure there was a Minecraft environment to run the competitions in, for demoing the MeyeNCRAFT project, and for organising the MinecraftEdu talk.

Capita Managed IT Solutions helped with the loan of computers (essential!) which were kindly loaned to the event by Rushey Mead School.

David Croft, from the DMU Gaming Society: Demon Gamers helped out tremendously, especially with the PvP competition.

Steve Lynch and David Wilson Clarke from the Leicester Lo-fi Photography group  ran the pinhole camera workshop.

Sean Clark from Leicester Raspberry Pi Users Group who brought the Pi.

Plus thanks to Steph Knowles, artist and workshop leader, who managed the papercraft room and Khush Nubian, artist, who helped out with registration.


Cross-posted from LCC's SchoolTech blog.

TMSEN12: The Critical Debate


It's almost time for TeachMeet SEN 2012! Last minute tickets available here.

Signups for TeachMeet SEN 2012 have gone really well. School, University and Local Authority staff have signed up from across the UK to come along, network, learn and present this Saturday in Leicester.
Our TeachMeet focuses on practice that works for learners with Special Educational Needs – learning difficulties or difficulties which make it harder to learn or access education. According to 2010 Governement figures, approximately 21% of all pupils in England where identified as having SEN.
TeachMeet SEN 2012 follows the traditional format of practitioners talking about and demoing practice that works, in 7 minute micro presentations or 2 minute nano presentations.


We will also be hosting a debate, with opportunities for both delegates and at distance participants to join in – looking at the broader strategic level issues and priorities. Our panelists are:


Sal Cooke, Director of JISC Techdis, one of the leading UK advisory services on technologies for inclusion. Sal has overall responsibility for the strategic focus and direction of JISC Techdis as guided by funders and stakeholders, ensuring it continues to be the pragmatic voice of inclusion and accessibility and promotes the innovative use of technologies, to support users within education, business and community sectors across the UK.


John Galloway, an ICT/SEN Advisor in Tower Hamlets, a consultant to a number of special schools going through BSF across London and Essex, and a freelance writer with several books and many articles to his name. He has been using computers with learners with a broad range of special needs since the mid-1980s and still gets excited by what technology can enable them to do. 


Bev Evans (@bevevans22/@TES_SEN) is the new Subject Leader of SEN Resources at TES – and spends time sourcing and creating resources and guidance to help support teachers, who have pupils with SEN, within the classroom. She also spends time visiting schools and events to find out what sort of resources practitioners are currently looking for to help support their work at school and beyond.


Our panellists have been asked to set out the current agenda for technologies for inclusion, and present and defend the issues and areas they have identified as current national priorities.

Our speakers have outlined their priorities – what do you think? Which of the panelist priorities resonate most strongly with you? Do you think there is a more pressing issue? Let us know and join in the debate by voting for the priorities you think are the most important, or contributing your own suggestions, either when you vote or in the comments below.

Sal Cooke:

1. Rethinking 'Assistive Technology

What is Assistive Technology in 2012? – or should we now call it something else?

As more and more of the mainstream technologies, including some free or very low cost solutions are displaying and integrating features that can aid our learners in a myriad of ways,  how do we need to think and re think what we “buy” download or access as assistive technologies?    

The Assistive Technology companies themselves are now operating in a very different world and equally so are schools, colleges and universities and of course so are learners and their families.  As a recent addition to the BATA Council I am very aware of the different pressures in this economic climate for both industry, and from my role as Director of JISC TechDis for the learning providers where the impact of technology (financial or pedagogical) can have such an impact on learners with specific needs.  

2. Keeping staff stay up to speed with the pace of technology practice and development

What about the people?  How will they gain the skills and knowledge about Assitive Technology in this ever changing world?

With the advent of apps, tablets, gesture based gaming and all manner of hand held devices – how do we expect staff to keep pace and obtain best value, the best information, and most of all the best for their learners?

The moves within the industry to more and more freemium offers and services could radically help schools and Local Authority budgets – but how do we know? Where are the sources of information? Do we need to be radical with mandatory training  - what about teaching and learning, and budgetary implications?

The recent post-16 Ofsted review recommended that the Department for Education and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills should jointly create a database of assistive technologies – is that a viable or desirable solution?

John Galloway

3. Accessible by default

With disability becoming more prevalent, why is accessibility optional?

We know that about twenty per cent of school children will have some sort of SEN, about half of them struggling with text. We also know that computer systems aren’t specially made for school children, they are made for average adults – it’s Microsoft Office, after all. But we also know that in Europe we have an ageing population which is leading to increasing numbers of people with disabilities, approximately 80m at the moment. And we know that adopting a principle of ‘inclusive design’ makes life easier for everyone.

So why do we have ‘Accessibility options’ on our computers, instead of ‘Accessibility by default?’ Many aspects of improving access – high contrast, variable colour schemes, enhancing the cursor – would work for most of us  (if we knew about them) These should be the defaults.

4. Anti-social networking  

Online communities promise so much for those with SEND, so why aren’t they more accessible?

Those with special needs and disabilities can sometimes find themselves isolated or excluded. Social networking could be a way of mitigating that isolation by both connecting them with others in a similar situation, and a leveller, including them in a world without the usual barriers. Yet there seem to be limited incidences of this happening, probably because:

  • the interface is complex;
  • the medium is predominantly text;
  • families and carers don’t appreciate what it offers.

As it stands, social networking can exacerbate a digital divide, that it could so easily help to bridge.

Bev Evans:

5. Funding for SEN technology in all schools

How do we stop schools from being left behind in the technology stakes?

As technology becomes more and more important in schools around the country what can be done to help those pupils in badly funded areas progress or have the access to the equipment they need? Some areas within Wales are particularly lacking in funding or support in this important area ( I am sure this is true of other areas within the UK too) – is it really good enough that this is still happening in 2012?

6. Bring services to pupils

Why is support for pupils with SEN so patchy across the UK? Is it purely a funding issue or are other things contributing?

In my area of Wales I have always been aware that many parents of children with SEN, in particular those with children who have autism, move into the county to access the provision available. I’m also aware of this  happening between schools across Wales and, from the emails or messages I get through position at the TES, it is obviously something that happens elsewhere in the country too. Why do some school or LAs put less effort into properly supporting and addressing the needs of pupils with SEN? Is it always a funding issue or do other factors come into play?

You can vote here for the priorities you agree with, suggest additional priorities or leave your comments below.