Caroline Read tells us how her experiences at school inspired the work she does to ensure students with difficulties receive the support they need.
Where did you study/what did you study/what are your qualifications?
I gained a London University Degree in Sociology and Theology in the late 70s, and went on to study for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Reading University. I later went on to gain the OCR Diploma for Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties.
I started my teaching career teaching in local primary schools, but after a short break to have my 2 daughters I began teaching for the Home and Hospital Teaching Service, supporting students who were ill or had been excluded from school.
This was my first experience with students with special needs, and after a few years led to me working with the local Cognition and Learning Support Team, teaching and supporting students with learning difficulties and their teachers. I worked in this service for 17 years and towards the end of my time there I was privileged to be asked to take over training run by Gill Backhouse from University College London, on the subject of Special Exam Arrangements (now referred to as Access Arrangements).
What are your current projects?
Gradually the training side of my work increased and with a colleague I set up 'Communicate-ed' in 2002. Communicate-ed is a training company specialising in offering training to special needs professionals working in the area of special needs. We started by offering the Access Arrangements courses, but now work with a number of nationally recognised presenters to offer training on a range of subjects related to SEN.
Lately we are hearing from our delegates that they are finding it increasingly difficult to take time out of school or college to attend venue based courses. In response to this we now have all our courses available to watch online. Because our costs are lower for the online courses we can pass the savings on to delegates, added to which delegates don’t need to travel, and may not need to arrange cover as the course can be viewed over a period of up to 10 days.
The initial feedback on these courses is extremely positive, so we are excited that in these austere times this it the way forward for teachers to gain the CPD they need to keep up to date on legislation and research and be equipped to carry out their responsibilities.
Who have you worked with?
Over the years I have been privileged to work with some outstanding administrators in Communicate-ed and alongside some really inspiring trainers, as well as being involved with a number of publishers to bring new tests and assessments to the market. I have enjoyed working with QCDA, Ofqual, JCQ, CIEA, RNIB on projects relating to assessment.
What inspired you to get into this field?
Personally I struggled at school, there was always a sense among my teachers that I was bright but wasn’t able to reflect that in my written work. I still read painfully slowly. Not a lot was known about Dyslexia at the time, but as an adult I have discovered that I am Dyslexic.
I wonder how different my educational experience might have been if the support structures that are available now were open to me then. This is particularly true of extra time in exams: I have never completed all the questions in an exam in my life! I want to make sure that students with difficulties today have access to the support that they need to demonstrate their true potential.
What do you do away from work?
I enjoy reading, walking and horse riding, as well as more recently being a grandmother to Bethan, aged 16 months. I am trustee of a small charity - www.linksinternational.org.uk - working to improve the lives of people in the developing world. At least once a year I am involved with my husband in travelling with a small team, to train communities in basic healthcare or developing small businesses. I recently returned from 2 weeks in Malawi working with 2 very poor villages.
One if the great spin offs from Communicate-ed is that we have been able to develop a range of resources and put the money into such projects. Thanks to the generosity of our delegates in purchasing the resources, we were recently able to facilitate the purchase 2,600 Mosquito nets so that everyone in the villages we visited in Malawi can sleep under a net and avoid the bites that lead to the killer malaria.
If you weren’t a teacher/trainer, what would you be?
I would probably work for a charity involved in the developing world.
What’s your favourite book (and why)?
I enjoy reading autobiographies, and particularly enjoyed Ranulph Fiennes the explorer’s dry, self depreciating humour and inspirational persistence.
What’s your favourite film (and why)?
It has to be a tossup between ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ for a humorous look at human nature, and ‘Shawshank Redemption’ for the cause of justice beating a corrupt system.
Who’s your favourite musician/composer/singer (and why)?
I have great respect for Bono and U2. I enjoy a lot of their music and I respect the way they have used their wealth and influence to make us aware of the suffering of a large proportion of the world we live in.
Whom do you most admire (and why)?
I admire Bill and Melinda Gates, not that I am necessarily a great fan of Microsoft, but for the fact that they have elected to use much of their vast wealth philanthropically. I hope in their position I would have the courage and grace to do the same!
Caroline Read is a partner in Communicate-ed, a company specialising in the training of education professionals who work in the area of special needs. You can find out more about their courses, trainers and resources at www.communicate-ed.org.uk.