Challenging Children. Challenging Change Conference, Torquay

| March 18, 2009 | 1 Comment 

screenshot003After a lot of opportunities recently to work alongside the staff and pupils in a variety of superb special schools around the country, it was a pleasure to make it down to Torquay for the SWALSS Challenging Children, Challenging Change Conference at The Grand Hotel, in Torquay.

It was great, therefore, to showcase some of the children we have worked with, who have risen to some true challenges.

It was also a pleasure to share the stage with Ken Hames. Ken is perhaps best known these days as the face of Mission Africa on BBC 1, and the BBC2 programme Beyond Boundaries. He also designed the camp and challenges on the first series of ITV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’.

Ken has spent a lot of time working with young people with physical difficulties for the BBC Beyond Boundaries series…

SWALSS, The  South and West Association of Leaders in Special Schools, The Association for Professionals in Special Education, was created by Headteachers to serve the needs of Headteachers, their Deputies and School Business Managers. SWALSS was formed as an association in 2001. Its prime purpose is to continue to organise conferences for Headteachers, Deputies and School Business Managers. These conferences are now in their 22nd year and as popular as ever.


I valued the relationship between what Ken talked about today, and the elements we have been experiencing.

After 25 years service, Ken retired from the Army in 1998 and now lives near  us, in Bristol. Becoming an expedition leader and motivational speaker, he came to note of a television producer and became involved in various adventure themed programs. Following a debut on Battle Stripes for Sky TV in 2000, Ken designed and presented Channel 4’s Desert Darlings, and in October 2002,  filmed the follow on in Namibia with couples who attempted to cross the Namib Desert.

After becoming involved in production and camp design for the first series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, Ken became involved in children’s televion with Bring it On, and Hero Factor for the Discovery Channel. Most recently Ken filmed the Beyond Boundaries series.

I spent four years working in West-Africa and survived two, bad doses of Malaria. But can’t claim anything close to some of the journeys Ken has taken.

I am a man with physical challenges these days, but still love the challenges of physical activities, like climbing, abseiling , kayaking canoeing etc. I really appreciated Ken’s messages about young people with disabilities facing challenges in difficult situations.

Beyond Boundaries Nicaragua is a series which follows a group of men and women, each of whom have a physical disability, as they trek across the rainforests, deserts, rivers and mountains of Nicaragua. The arduous route takes the participants from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The last Westerner to attempt this route was Christopher Columbus in 1492, but he had a galleon and then only made it half-way!

They start on the treacherous Mosquito Coast, escorted by armed soldiers to protect them from bandits and drug traffickers. They then make their way through a jungle and crocodile infested rivers, and climb a live volcano to make it to their finish line — the Pacific Coast. They have twenty-eight days to cross two hundred and twenty miles.

Series Two – Beyond Boundaries: The African Challenge follows a group of disabled adventurers on a 2,000 mile journey across continental Africa. They have to work together as a group to cross the two oldest deserts in the world, avoid lions and rhinos, and ride the world’s most dangerous rapids at Victoria Falls before reaching their destination on the Skeleton Coast.

Beyond Boundaries III: Across the Andes: follows 10 physically disabled teenagers as they cross the Andes, one of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Over a period of four weeks and 400km, these young people will have to fight their way from the edge of the Amazon Basin, climb to over 5000m to reach the snowline on Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world, and then descend to sea level, wading through miles of swamp before reaching the Pacific Ocean.

screenshot0021We talked about the way that our travels with children in virtual worlds, and Ken’s travels in the analogue, shared many learning opportunities that work well together. I think that there is NO replacement for REAL, analogue experiences, and admire the opportunties and challenges Ken has provided, and challenged us to provide for our students.

Support Beyond Boundaries LIVE! at Farnborough on the 4th, 5th of July.

Thank you to all of the SWALSS team for a conference that challenged all of us. To quote Ken, “Optimism is true moral courage”.

All men dream, but unequally. Those that dream at night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake the next day to find that their dreams were just vanity. But those who dream during the day with their eyes wide open are dangerous men; they act out their dreams to make them reality.Thomas E. Lawrence

Let’s go for it! 🙂

Category: 1) Events and Training days

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  1. Brian Carlyon says:

    Hi, Just wanted to say how much I appreciated your presentation today at Torquay. I have just been playing with Carzy Talk and will be looking into using Myst or one of its varieties to add to lessons in the future. Thanks for a very stimulating morning.

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