Something that makes Seashell Trust unique and a great place for children and young people to find care is our dedication to always improving our practice and to championing innovation in the care of those with multiple disabilities.
From our reknowned sensory garden to our staff development and the research that we undertaken, often with partner like PZ Cussons, we like to think we're defining the future for our area of work and setting an ever higher standard for both ourselves and for others.
Seashell Trust is working with PZ Cussons (makes of leading brands such as Imperial Leather, Original Source, Charles Worthington and Carex) on a world leading innovation project, researching the use of specifically created scents to develop our own ground-breaking practice to help enhance and extend the communication skills of multi-sensory impaired (deafblind) young people with severe learning difficulties, enabling them to make choices and improve their life outcomes.
The first tranche of the academic research has been published in a number of prominent journals including Deafblind International. The second phase of our research was published in 2013 and the findings were presented by Anne Gough, Dr Heather Murdoch, Eileen Boothroyd and PZ Cusson's Kate Williams at the World Conference on Deafblindness in August 2013 in Lille, France. We have also begun working with Royal Dutch Kentalis from the Netherlands who wish to join our research programme and undertake a similar mission guided by PZ Cussons and staff from Seashell Trust.
Royal College Manchester was announced as 'highly commended' in the 2013 Provider of the Year - Independent Specialist College category.
Staff from the college picked up their awared at the fifth annual Leading the Learner Voice Awards which took place in London in June 2013. Hosted by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) and the National Union of Students (NUS) the awards celebrate the significant contributions learners make to the further education and skills sector and recognise the staff who support them in doing this. The awards are also an opportunity to ensure that good practice is shared and available for others to learn from.
The awards were open to learners, staff and providers in the FE and skills sector. This includes sixth form and independent specialist colleges for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, work based learning, adult community learning and offender learning.
The categories highlighted the changing and evolving priorities facing the FE and skills sector and there were three new categories: Learning Champion of the Year, Information, Advice and Guidance and Imaginative Approaches to Learner Voice.
Tricia Ramjutan and Georgia Ireton went to London to collect the award. Georgia is a member of the Royal College Manchester student council which has gone from strength to strength in recent years with support from Tricia as Learner Voice Coordinator.
The award ceremony was held in London and the honours were presented by Rob Wye, Chief Executive of LSIS and Dame Ruther Silver, Chair of LSIS.
"As a college for young people with significant communication difficulties, we place a high importance on the development of communication skills for all young people and this work is supported by our speech and language therapists working with staff and students. All staff are trained to support students in the use of a range of communication systems, sign language, picture communication systems, Objects of Reference as well as electronic aid. With communication in place every learner will be heard', Tricia explains.
Students are actively involved in making decisions and shaping their college experience, they make decisions about resources they want in college or residence and participate in staff recruitment and learn to speak out so that their views are taken into account. In 2013 the students led a protest around safe driving on campus, participated in learning walks and expressed views around the college curriculum and facilities.
In her role as Learner Voice Coordinator, Tricia has worked with the National Union of Students and LSIS to develop a practice guide for Learner Voice. Talking Learner Voice - collaboratin with and empowering learners in quality improvement. A practice guide for leaders, managers and practitioners. LSIS ref: LSIS332.
Several Royal School Manchester students are participating in the gamelan project, in which they attend workshops with musicians Ros Hawley and Mark Fisher, staff (including our audiologist and mental health nurse), volunteers and Dr Rachel Swindells, from Manchester Metropolitan University. The project seeks to develop the students' ability to experience and create music in meaningful, educational and emotionally rich ways.
Gamelan (from the Javanese 'gamel', hammer) is a traditional Indonesian percussion orchestra, originating from Java and Bali. Seashell Trust's own gamelan, which includes gongs, drums, and the bonang, was funded by the Arley Hall Shopping Spectacular and is made available for the students to use during the workshops. We are also grateful to Christine Evans, the artist on a bike, for her work with our students and the creation of these lovely batik pieces which decorate the gamelan room.
Our gamelan sessions focus on music-making and participation, and the children are also seeing benefits in a number of areas including tolerance of noise and wearing hearing aids for longer periods, staying in the room with other children for longer periods, improved eye-contact and instances of student-led interaction with staff and/or peers, and a reduction in self-injurious behaviours. Some children are developing their confidence in playing music, for example, by trying new techniques or following dynamic changes when playing music. Other skills pupils have developed include the ability to locate particular sounds, begin playing autonomously and make choices about which instruments they would like to play.
During his visit to Seashell Trust in February, Professor Adam Ockelford joined student workshops led by Dr Swindells and the project musicians, accompanied by Seashell staff. He then met the team to discuss how the project could be developed using the Sounds of Intent music-developmental framework developed by Professor Ockelford and his colleagues at the University of Roehampton for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities.
Seashell Trust's gamelan project is supported by Youth Music and public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Youth Music believes that every child should be given the chance to make music. Please visit www.youthmusic.org.uk