With our own dedicated SEN Specialist, at Pertemps, we know that the match between a SEN professional and a young person with special educational needs or a disability needs to be spot on.
We are committed to providing the best support possible, and we’re always open to listening and learning from the people on the front line. That’s why we spoke to Steph Marie, founder of the Butterfly Princess SEND initiative, who has lived with Cerebral Palsy all her life. Steph’s condition means that her ability to control her muscles is affected.
Is mainstream schooling important for SEN pupils?
“Although I had some really challenging experiences,” Steph says, “I’m a huge fan of mainstream schooling for children with disabilities and SEN”. Steph originally began her education journey in a special needs school. Although she was very young, she recalls the focus being physio and speech therapy as the school catered for children with a very wide range of disabilities. At the age of eight, Steph had a phased move to a mainstream setting: “I’m very grateful that I was introduced at a young age and think that early intervention was really key for me in becoming the person I am today.”
At Pertemps, we are trusted by a wide range of organisations recruiting for SEN roles. We understand that mainstream schools are not always the best choice for every young person with SEN, but as Steph says, it can be rewarding for others.
Challenges in Education
When speaking with Steph, she’s crystal clear about the positive impact that individuals can have in SEND education. She hopes that by speaking out, she can help people to reflect on her experience, take it on board and make a positive change. The nature of their role means that support workers have an enormous influence over the young people they work with: “My support workers were always with me, like a shadow”. Because of her physical vulnerabilities, Steph was protected by the adults around her, but the reality of the situation was not always welcome: “This affected my day, especially at lunchtime, as all my peers would be sitting chatting with friends. I couldn’t go outside as my support workers didn’t want me to fall, so all pupils with SEND had to sit in a room”.
It’s not what you’ve gone through in life that defines you but it’s how you overcome challenges.
But Steph didn’t let these experiences knock her back: “It’s not what you’ve gone through in life that defines you,” she says, “but it’s how you overcome challenges.”
Steph is philosophical about her education. Despite making it to A-levels at sixth form college, she now thinks that many people saw her as an issue to be dealt with: “We live in a society where disability is still frowned upon,” she says. “People just see your disability and that’s it. That’s all they see. Some people aren’t interested in getting to know you as a person.”
“It was only from the age of 16 that I felt fully accepted. It was the first time I had real friends and felt part of something, a real community.”
What qualities do SEND specialists need?
Listening to what Steph has to say has emphasised how important it is for our candidates to help young people with SEN feel included from the start, and our SEN specialist, Branden Ardestani is always keen to learn more.
I think you need to be kind, compassionate and understanding.
Like, when we asked Steph what qualities she would want to see in a SEN professional: “I think you need to be kind, compassionate and understanding. You also need to be patient, and prepared to be presented with some challenges and bumps in the road. It isn’t always going to be plain sailing.”
However, one thing we do know – and luckily Steph agrees, is that a career in this industry can be utterly amazing. “Working in this arena is very rewarding, as you will have a positive impact on someone’s life.”
Learn more about Steph and her Butterfly Princess SEND Initiative here.