The first theme of our Pride in Diversity Month is Disability, and what we can do as a Trust to support every member of our community. This is more important than ever before after the impact of the past year.
It is our responsibility as education providers to support all our young people and staff, and to do whatever we can to ensure we help every member of our community. Our incredibly diverse communities include a range of disabilities, both visible and less-visible. We want to raise awareness of these to ensure more people are aware of the range of challenges faced by people with disabilities in their daily lives.
As a community, we should never assume that someone does or does not have a disability but instead remember to be patient, to treat others with kindness, and to stand up for others when they may need help.
Our aim across the Trust has always been to create a family of academies which are inclusive and welcoming to everyone, and it is by celebrating those with disabilities in our communities, that will help accomplish this. We intend to use Pride in Diversity Month to highlight the diversities within our Trust – our young people and staff have such a vast range of lived experiences, and this is such a strength of the Landau Forte family.
Types of disability
Some people will experience a disability that is outwardly visible to others. As you walk down the street or travel to and from the Academy, you may instantly recognise that a person is disabled. For example, they may:
- be a wheelchair user
- have difficulty walking
- carry a white stick
You may see young people or staff around our academy sites who have visible disabilities that may need additional support at times. Our responsibility as a community is to make sure they are always able to receive this support. Even if it’s not the formal support offered by the academy, we should always be aware of whether another member of our community is struggling and needs our help.
While a visible disability may be easier to see, as you look around there may be equally as many, if not more, disabled people you cannot see. These people may experience a disability that isn’t necessarily as ‘visible’ to other people. For example:
- Mental health conditions
- Autism or Asperger syndrome
- Learning disabilities
- Hearing or vision loss
Having a less-visible disability can be just as life-affecting for a person as a visible one, which is why we need to be patient, understanding and compassionate. We should be receptive as a community to those around us who may require additional support, especially as it may not be obvious that someone may have a specific need.
It is also important to remember that sometimes people experience a combination of both visible and less-visible disabilities. For example, a person in a wheelchair may also have a mental health difficulty.
Support in our academies
The Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have caused schools across the world to redefine how they teach and how to best support their communities. Across the Trust we have seen our academies adapt their policies to ensure our young people continue to receive the support they need. We also continue to recognise that members of our communities might struggle with a particular issue and could well be coming to us looking for support.
With that in mind we have boosted our pastoral support across the Trust to ensure every young person has someone they can talk to at any point. Our academies have used the COVID-19 Catch-up Premium from the Government to hugely increase the support we can offer, including:
- Ensuring all young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are supported with making social, emotional and academic progress following the enforced school closures;
- Ensuring our SEND Co-ordinators draw up specific intervention programmes to make sure all young people with SEND are supported to make rapid progress in literacy and numeracy;
- Providing Key Stage 3 students with access to art therapy when needed, to ensure that they’re supported to reach their full learning potential; and
- Better communication between academies and families to ensure no pupil feels isolated and unsupported.
Each academy run their own programmes of support so please do check their websites for more information – and we always welcome suggestions for ways we can improve on these.
Pride in Disability
While both visible and less-visible disabilities may result in life-affecting challenges, we want our young people and members of staff to be proud of their disability to celebrate how they make our communities wonderfully unique and diverse. There are more celebrities, sportspeople and influencers who have embraced their disabilities than ever before, showing us all how they can live the most incredible lives.
Tess Daly, a beauty influencer from Sheffield, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which means she relies on a wheelchair and carers to help with her day-to-day life. Tess has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram and uses the platform to show off her fashion, beauty and makeup tips.
Pippa Stacey is a chronically ill writer based in Yorkshire who blogs, speaks and consults on the challenges of living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. ME is a less-visible disability, and Pippa has become a well-known influencer highlighting how she continues to live a full life.
Ellie Simmonds is one of the finest para-swimmers in the world, having won eight medals across four events at three separate Paralympic Games. When not winning medals Ellie advocates for greater access to swimming for children across the country, both with and without disabilities.
We want to use this week to celebrate these incredible people, and to use their experiences to make us feel proud of the things which make us different. We want all young people, their families and our staff to feel comfortable talking about their own disabilities, and we want everyone within the Trust to recognise how this diversity makes us stronger.