SEMH Conference

This collaborative one day conference will share good practise, practical insights and reflect upon the implications and challenges of mental health issues for learners in school and at home.

You will leave the conference with a more in depth knowledge of current issues in SEMH; the impact of anxiety on learning; an understanding of practical strategies to improve the emotional resilience of our learners; how issues may be different for learners with autism; as well as strategies to embed SEMH related learning within the curriculum.

Conference Programme

8.30am – 9.30 am Coffee & registration

9.30am Chairman’s introduction and welcome – Richard Hirstwood.

9.40am – 10.40am Morning Keynote SEMH and the Curriculum: Play as a curriculum approach in meeting the social and emotional needs of children with severe and profound and complex learning needs– Steve Phillips

Steve explores the importance of free play within the curriculum in meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of those with profound and severe complex needs within our schools.

10.40am – 11.00am TEA/COFFEE & networking

11.00am – 12.00pm SEMH and messy play: practical strategies & ideas – Julie Cowpe-Stephens

Julie shares very practical ways of introducing and using messy play strategies for learners with SEMH.  She shares a host of ideas and ways to create engagement in learning.

12.00pm – 1pm SEMH and Learning: who is the anxious learner? – Carol Allen

An anxious pupil is one not ready, or able, to engage in effective learning in the classroom. This session will examine the sensory issues and physiological barriers to learning for the anxious learner; introduce practical ways to identify and assess such barriers in addition to offering effective strategies to engage these pupils in learning.

1pm – 2pm Lunch & networking

2pm – 3pm  Afternoon Keynote SEMH and Autism: Knowing Me, Knowing You – Chris Barson

Young people with autism spectrum conditions face some big challenges in life, and learning about ‘life’ is one of them. The challenges come with the condition but are compounded by lack of awareness and understanding in others. So, how can we help young people to understand the people world around them? And what about the teaching and support environment they find themselves in? That will need work too!

3pm TEA & Networking

3.15pm – 4pm SEMH and the sensory room:  throwing the baby out with the bathwater? – Richard Hirstwood

Richard explores the role of the modern day, interactive multi sensory room for learners with SEMH.  Given that the rationale of the earliest of these spaces was to ‘explore and relax’ to reduce agitation and anxiety; how can we maximise the impact of the multi sensory room for our current cohort of learners with SEMH?

4pm Plenary & Close of day – Steve Phillips & Richard Hirstwood

Speaker Biographies.

Click on the tabs below to read our speakers biographies.

When & where?

14 June 2019

The Wesley Hotel & Conference Centre

81 – 103 Euston St, London NW1 2EZ

Who should attend?

This will be appropriate for leaders, middle leaders and classroom practitioners from special schools and colleges, mainstream settings & those with specialist SEN provision and early years settings, who are working with pupils with PMLD/CLDD & Autism.


£325 plus VAT per place including lunch & refreshments

Conference Notes?

All pertinent conference presentations and supporting documentation will be available on the day and/or at


The Wesley Hotel, 81 – 103 Euston St, London NW1 2EZ

Steve Phillips is the former Deputy Principal of Fountaindale School, who oversaw the development of specific curricula for EYFS/pre-formal/semi-formal and formal learners at school.

Julie Cowpe-Stephens

Julie has worked in Special Education for thirty seven years. Her main area of specialism and passion is in Sensory Approaches to Learning, understanding sensory processing, sensory integration and regulation strategies. She is also skilled at mentoring staff on understanding sensory behaviours; producing CASP plans – (consistent approaches to support pupils learning) and sensory profiles.

She has also developed planning strategies with teachers to embed a sensory rich curriculum through themes, topics and stories using high- and low-tech sensory resources, sensory rooms and interactive studios.

She enjoys creating sensory learning environments both within the classroom and in other areas in a school environment.

Julie has also provided outreach support to many mainstream schools and early years settings on:

  • Planning for sensory approaches to learning
  • Inclusion strategies
  • Support packages and sensory plans
  • How to develop a sensory curriculum
  • How to create sensory spaces/rooms and environments
  • Sensory assessments and profiles with practical strategies to manage daily challenges

Carol Allen is an education advisor for ICT and Inclusion, currently offering specialised support to Local Authorities; schools; parents and carers and a wide range of educators across the world.  She has taught since 1980 in both mainstream schools – primary and high, and schools for students with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. Recognising, as an English specialist, that communication lies at the heart of all effective teaching, the majority of her work has centred on creative and engaging use of technology to support communication in its widest sense.  Carol works in partnership with many companies in the educational technology field as she holds a strong belief in sharing and collaboration across all participants in order to maximise the potential opportunities for her students. All work centres on easy to replicate practice which is fun, achievable and creates communication enhancement opportunities.

Chris Barson founded Positive About Autism in January 2009. Prior to that Chris was External Training Manager for the National Autistic Society. Chris has a long involvement with disability and autism. Chris first joined the National Autistic Society (NAS) in 1996 as a Project Officer in Wales on a Children in Need project reviewing short term care provision. After working with the NAS Regional Development Team promoting service development throughout the UK.

Chris went to work at the Royal College of General Practitioners, in 2000, where he managed Professional Development and Quality programmes. Chris rejoined NAS in 2004.Chris has contributed to the design and delivery of courses provided by Canterbury Christ Church University, and University of Cumbria. Chris is a contributing author to ‘The Autism Spectrum in the 21st Century:Exploring Psychology, Biology and Practice’ Jessica Kingsley Press 2010 (Highly Commended 2011 BMA Medical Book Awards)

Richard Hirstwood is the founder & principal tutor of Hirstwood Training. His training courses have, and continue to be, experienced worldwide most recently New Zealand, Australia and Denmark in 2018/9.

He is passionate about enabling educators/practitioners to maximise the impact of delivering sensory learning opportunities, in a sensory room or other learning environment, with the resources available to them.

He has developed innovative ways of delivering key skills and competences training, via face to face training and hands on work with teachers & pupils.; and creates accessible information for social media and e-learning platforms

He was the co-author of ‘The practical guide to multi sensory rooms’ in 1995 and has continued to create both offline and online content. His most recent published work is a featured chapter in the book ‘Technology for SEND in Primary Schools’ A Guide for Best Practice published in December 2017 by Sage Publications. Richard is also a regular contributor to magazines such as ‘PMLD Link’.

His extensive experience is based on practical knowledge, giving him insight into what works and what doesn’t in multi sensory practice. Regular sessions with children and adults with autism and all additional needs in a variety of multi sensory and classroom settings enable him to maintain this level of excellent practice.