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Special award

If you want to know what personalisation really is, ask Pam Ibbotson (left). Calm, determined, assured and resolute, Pam is the curriculum support assistant at SENSS (Special Educational Needs Support Service) Wakefield. She was formerly a computer programmer and systems analyst. Now she is committed to providing access and independent learning for her pupils.

Most teaching assistants are generalists - Pam is a specialist. Her work is focused on children with significant physical and sensory difficulties and she is zealous about enabling children to achieve their potential.

Pam works from The Centre in Wakefield and this involves her in visiting students in schools to analyse and assess the problems they face and determine what support the staff of the school will need to help. When the initial analysis work is complete, Pam provides solutions both low and high tech.

Pam's determination to seek out the best for her students is at the heart of her success and won a Special Award in Becta's learning assistance category. She realised some time ago that the QCA's external examination system was not working for her students, so she devised ways to allow her students to complete SATS tests without an amanuensis.

Scribing takes away the independence from Pam's students. For some, ICT is their main way of recording and there is no electronic way of writing for the English and Science SAT test at key stage 2.

Simple and obvious though it sounds, the task involved battling with every kind of entrenched bureaucracy that an exam system can devise. When permission eventually came through, Pam then had to take on the re-formatting of the papers herself. This has involved form design and the use of character-recognition scanning software to ensure that the learning outcome is shown by the pupil without giving them the answers.

At the core of what Pam does is the building of rapport and raising confidence in children. Researching the ICT area and a wide knowledge of the currently available hardware and software is essential. Pam uses ICT to ensure access, provide explanations, demonstrate concepts and encourage creativity. These are difficult to achieve with pupils with such severe access problems in mainstream schools.

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