Centre for Special Education and Disability Studies

A new Centre for Special Education and Disability Studies has been established at the University of Chichester. The Centre, which is based at the Bognor Regis campus, reinforces the Chichester Institute of Education’s reputation as a centre of excellence in special educational needs programmes of study in both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

The purpose of the Centre is fourfold:

  • to make significant contributions to students' knowledge and understanding of working with children and young adults who have special educational needs and disabilities;
  • to be a resource base for University staff and teaching professionals to access relevant and up to date information;
  • to promote opportunities for research both at the University and in workplace practice; and
  • to create local, national, and international links with people currently working, or interested in working, in a range of educational settings and services.

Diana Seach, a Principal Lecturer in Special Education at the Chichester Institute of Education, is leading the development of the Centre with Sue Sheach, a Senior Lecturer on the BA PTS programme and Foundation degree in Teaching and Learning Support.

Working alongside them are Roger Hutchins and Jane Cross, Associate Lecturers who work with Diana on the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination, and Heather Green, a Senior Lecturer, who joined the team in January 2016.

Ms Seach said: ‘A key aspect of our work will be to promote awareness of the values and ethos of inclusive practice in our schools and in the community. We recognise the contribution that disabled people and their families have already made in the development of the special educational needs and disability programmes of study and one of our aims will be to encourage collaborative and co-produced research projects.

‘Although the Centre is part of the work of the Institute of Education, we are keen to be seen as a resource for all departments across the University, as well as professionals working in this field. We are also planning a number of events across the academic year which we hope will be an opportunity for us to meet and work together.’

Among those attending the opening of the Centre was primary school teacher and SENCO Jennie Asser, of Froxfield C of E Primary School in Petersfield, who graduated from the University’s National Award for SEN Coordination in 2012. The former student has devised an innovative method of developing the reading abilities of children who have a special educational need or disability.

Jennie said: ‘Sometimes children can get bored with reading or find it difficult to engage. I ask them to think of a short story and give me all of the details. I then go home, write it up, and ask them to read it back to me during our next class session.

‘This encourages them to enjoy reading and in many cases, I have found that it improves their ability to read within a matter of weeks. When they cannot read and then are able to read three pages of a story, it really is a huge step.’

The scheme has already been introduced in a number of schools in West Sussex and Hampshire, and Jennie is now hoping to roll it out nationwide.

Jennie added: ‘The programme seems to markedly improve the children’s attitude and ability to concentrate in class and across other subjects aside from English. Much of it is about improving their self-esteem.’

The opening of the Centre was marked at an evening launch event in November in the Dome at the Bognor Regis campus, when the Chichester Institute of Education also held a special certification ceremony for students who gained the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination.

More than 100 guests from the wider education community joined University colleagues for an opportunity to hear about the research projects undertaken by SENCOs in their schools, and work currently being developed by undergraduates on the new BA (Hons) Education, Special Needs and Disability degree. Information was also available from our local SEN hubs and organisations run by and for disabled people in our local community.

For information on the Centre for Special Education and Disability Studies, or if you are interested in enrolling on any SEN programmes of study please email CSEDS@chi.ac.uk