International Association of Special Education

Fostering a Global Exchange of Ideas and Information

Bronwen Hewitt - United Kingdom

I initially trained and qualified in Institutional Management and have spent most of my working life in the education sector.  I have worked for over 30 years for a large charitable Trust (Dame Hannah Rogers Trust) which aims to empower, advocate and enrich the lives of children and adults with a range of disabilities. Taking on the role of CEO in 2005 I have initiated and led the organisation through a significant period of growth where the Trust now has in its Ivybridge Centre (for PMLD) a School, a Children’s Home and Respite Centre (2 to 18), a Community Hub and a Residential Transition Service for young adults aged 19 to 25. The Trust has also just opened its first Community Home for lifelong placements. The Newton Abbot Centre (for the whole range of disabilities) is a groundbreaking and innovative project set up for post 16 to old age! This centre is bringing the community in by offering many facilities such as arts, live music, recording studio, outdoor pursuits, retail, artists’ studios and gallery, conferences, weddings etc. This then provides ‘real’ opportunities for disabled young people and adults to learn, train and have a social life. The Trust has also just opened its first Community Home for lifelong placements.   Campaigning for change is an important aspect of my work. I am tasked with the development of the vision and values of the Trust, the promotion of the Trust’s profile and its reputation; exploring and articulating the ways in which the Trust might evolve so that the mission of Dame Hannah Rogers Trust and its beneficiaries is ultimately achieved. I am passionate about the Trust and its work and the opportunities afforded by the acquisition of Seale-Hayne seeing a place where disabilities are segregated neither from each other nor from society.


In my current role I have a growing profile which has included articles in national media and a reception held for the Trust at 10 Downing Street and hosted by the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron. I am working with many partner organisations in a variety of areas including research.  I am a member of ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) and NASS (National Association of Special Schools). I am well placed to communicate nationally about IASE and its goals and to share information on national events and opportunities.


I am married with two children. When I used to have the luxury of some free time I would enjoy working in my studio with stained and fused glass as well as painting. My son is autistic; he is high functioning but the challenges faced by him and his family have been many! We have been on the end of the prejudice and ignorance which surrounds a young person on the Spectrum and I strive to change this personally and through my work. A change of attitude and understanding can transform the lives of many of those with ASD. Using their strengths and wonderful uniqueness, changing the negativity that they face on a daily basis and encouraging research is vital.


My overriding dream is that disability will not be viewed as the defining characteristic by society; that we will base our approach to special education on principal and not the latest trend, that it is inspirational and imaginative, that we see the child or young person first and the disability second. That we focus on their strengths and talents. That educators will continue to learn; our students (and their families) have much to teach us. That we will ensure that children and young people have, despite their disability, access to the same dreams, opportunities, and fun as we all do. Understanding the person first and foremost is vital and a human right. A holistic approach should be the mainstay of special education; access to the appropriate expertise e.g. therapists, psychologists, care, medical etc will enable that young person to access their learning and progress. The rapidly developing technological world will empower young people whether they are on the autistic spectrum or have profound physical disabilities and educators should be at the cutting edge. We have to ensure we are, and contribute to, a truly reflective organisation. We must continue to challenge the status quo and be a part of the continuation of the huge progress that has been made over the last thirty years in both disability and special education. This will lead to our students becoming full members of their community and leading a life of value without judgment or limit.


“A person is only disabled by either their physical environment or their social environment”

 

‘It is a joy to lead Hannahs which challenges the status quo and change things for the better. To share with, and to support other members across the world as a National Chair for IASE is both a duty and a privilege and I look forward to working with my new international colleagues and friends.’

National Chairs Report: Reporting from the UK!

By Bronwen Hewitt

(Published in the February issue of Annuntiatus)


In July of last year, I attended the IASE Biennial International Conference in Vancouver along with one of my Trustees, Judith Waterfield. It was my first time as a delegate and I was impressed by the dynamic and grassroots approach of the association. I met many inspirational people and enjoyed sharing the work of my organization, ... (click here for the entire article)

IASE at the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust

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