Does planning always have to be boring?

Does planning always have to be boring?

Ann Johnson, director at Wave-length has been working alongside pupils at Severndale Specialist School in Shrewsbury, encouraging their students to see the value in self-employment. In this article, Ann reflects on her time spent with the students…

After reading the BBC article ‘It’s hard to get a job with Down’s syndrome’ this week, alongside Mencap’s statement ‘The charity Mencap says eight out of 10 working age people with a learning disability could work but less than two in 10 are in employment.’ Wave-length felt encouraged to reflect upon the work we have been doing with students at Severndale’s new academy, Futures.

In understanding that job opportunities are not always readily available, we have been assisting Futures students to see the value of self-employment as an option. It’s a great piece of work delivering business skills and development to a lovely group of students, some of whom have Down’s syndrome. It was particularly great when one of the students recently said how much he enjoyed the sessions, making its value felt. We have been looking at business tools and approaches, helping them identify how small businesses grow, how you might set up in business and some of the easy business development tools.

If I start in the classroom with ‘how, why’ there is no delay in the students completing the sentence with ‘what, when, who and where’.   We have now developed the skills into running three fairs and increasing sales time upon time, learning from the last one each time.

This approach is different to other fairs where there might be a temptation to set up the stall for the students and then just encourage them to sell   this approach means that the student agrees the approach, sets up the stall, runs it and then evaluates the approach after. The post activities would include, what sold well, how they will be sourced again, and for those responsible for presentation how might it be further improved and when might be the best time/day to set up stall next time. The students clearly enjoy selling but the real business skills are developed by being part of the whole process which summed up by a student saying ‘planning is boring I just want to be out there selling’.

Currently, we are working on developing individual business skills and opportunities by beginning to identify what each student brings to the group and where their aspirations and interests lie, whilst now working on their collective skill base we can still allow sufficient time to grow them as individuals. In its first year of running this business approach, it is easy to see the soft outcomes already, the growth in confidence, the eagerness to learn and to know how to work in a team but it is more difficult to predict the hard outcomes at this early stage as to whether it will provide opportunity for meaningful occupation.

For Wave-length the partnership approach will be successful if it means once leaving college the students have a great reason to get up in the morning as they feel valued, that they have found employment or that they are moving towards running their own business. Year two of the students will be focusing on further developing their individual business or self-employment ideas and ahead of transition for those interested helping to select personal assistants for them or family members that will be best suited to further develop ideas and skills learnt at Futures. However, in the meantime we plough on with the next collective business venture being an art exhibition ‘90’s pop and film culture’ which will bring together all of the students skills in working with fabric, photography, loving music, film and art. This event was the students idea, designed by the students and will succeed or fail by the hands of the students and a little support from us at Wave-length.

To read the full BBC article please visit Or to learn more about the work we are doing at Severndales Academy ‘Futures’ email us at or telephone Wave-length at 01952 670404

Posted May 26th, 2015 In News
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