A Derby woman is celebrating after winning a national special educational needs awards at the annual nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) awards. Karen Brownhill, communication practitioner at St Giles School in Derby, beat off tough competition from across the UK to win the Teaching and Learning Support Staff category of the awards in October.
Winners were announced during a ceremony at the Waldorf Hilton hotel, presented by radio and TV presenter Vanessa Feltz.
The award was sponsored by Best Practice Network, which runs a range of professional development and support programmes, including NASENCO (The National Award for SEN Coordination).
Dean Boyce, CPD programme director at Best Practice Network said: “Children with special educational needs depend on professionals like Karen to access everything that our schools have to offer. She is a credit to her school and we’re delighted to be associated with such a worthy winner of this award.”
“It was a lovely evening and I met so many inspirational candidates,” said Karen, who has worked at St Giles School for almost 18 years.
“It was an honour to be nominated and it was such a surprise when my name was called out. I am passionate about giving children a voice and supporting them with their communication skills.”
Karen joined St Giles as a teaching assistant but was encouraged by Jill Moore, a teacher at the school, to take the role of school communication practitioner.
She trained in Makaton – a language programme that uses signs and symbols with spoken language to encourage communication skills and develop speech – four years ago.
In summer 2018 Karen taught pupils and staff at St Giles how to sign the England football anthem ‘Three Lions’ using Makaton. The school was filmed for television with the clip being used ahead of England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia.
“I treat every single child here at St Giles like I would want my own child to be treated,” she said. “My role as communications practitioner is to motivate the youngsters here and drive them on. It’s a luxury working here though; I thoroughly enjoy coming into the school every morning. I’m so lucky.”
Executive headteacher Clive Lawrence said: “Karen’s award is a true reflection of the hard work and dedication of all of the support staff at St. Giles School. I’m am very proud of Karen’s work and that of my team as whole.”