Ellise Hayward
A motivational speaker with cerebral palsy has outlined her experiences to help Education students in their future careers.
Ellise Hayward, aged 22 from Somerset, is unable to verbally speak, but used eye-gaze technology to open the University of Plymouth’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Education Conference.
Addressing students from across the Plymouth Institute of Education, as well as practitioners from the wider region, she highlighted the impact of inclusion at mainstream school and how teachers can help others with disabilities to be included and succeed.  
Despite being on par with her peers academically, she said some educators and peers used to bypass her and speak solely to her teaching assistant. But, as she explained in her keynote presentation, small actions can make a huge difference.
Ellise Hayward and ITV
Ellise's eye-gaze technology
Ellise's eye-gaze technology

If I could give one piece of advice to teachers, it would be listen to students, make sure their voice is heard, and make them feel included in everything.

At primary school, it was felt that there wasn’t provision for me to take part in school plays or even sit on the floor in assembly, but it didn’t have to be like that. Small changes – like bringing me into assembly at the same time as my friends and bringing me closer to ground level – would have helped to make me feel like I was included, and not an inconvenience. 

In secondary school, teachers went out of their way to ask me what I thought and what I wanted, and were very patient when I formed responses on my communication devices (initially a book with symbols, and now eye-gaze technology that delivers responses in Queen Elizabeth’s voice). It made a huge difference, and I’m proud of what I’ve gone on to do, including my current work as a correspondent for the Jill Dando News Centre at The Priory Learning Trust.

It’s been wonderful to come to the University of Plymouth and share my experiences, and I look forward to coming back again soon.
Ellise Hayward – motivational speaker 
The conference also heard about the research being conducted at the University, which has a strong record of expertise in special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) and inclusion.
Display from EDI in education conference
Education students' work displayed at the conference
Display from EDI in education conference
Display from EDI in education conference
Display from EDI in education conference

We work in partnership with practitioners, the third sector and students to build and sustain inclusive education with evidenced impact – our emphasis on collaboration is key.

For example, we’re working on a first-of-its-kind global study with 13 other countries, focusing on parents of children with special needs and disabilities, to explore parent voice, parent choice, and the challenges they face in getting access to an equal and fair education for their children. 

We also work with the regional department for Education, city leaders and policy makers, evaluating levelling-up initiatives in schools and developing an evidence-based definition of Inclusion for cross sector application.

It’s been amazing to have Ellise here to talk to us all. I know her words have resonated with so many people, and her experiences have undoubtedly had a positive impact.

Suanne GibsonSuanne Gibson
Associate Professor in Education

It’s been a really informative event and interesting to hear from Ellise as one of the keynote speakers. It’s challenging to make the links between what we’ve heard and how we can then put things into practice, and we’ve really been thinking about what we can do going forward. Based on my own experiences, as a student with a number of chronic conditions, as well as attending the conference, I know there’s much more to do to ensure inclusion within the sector. But I feel that we, as students here, are well placed to help do it.

Ella Stribbs – second-year Education student studying the SEND pathway

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A female teacher watching a group of children creating a structure with colourful toy blocks.