Student teachers given insight into Additional Learning Needs and Wellbeing


Student teachers from University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (UWTSD) Centre for Education, Yr Athrofa, attended an annual two-day ALN Conference where keynote speakers discussed Additional Learning Needs (ALN) and Wellbeing.

Group photo at ALN Conference with Children's Commissioner for Wales

Organised annually by Yr Athrofa and held online for the past two years, this year’s conference at the Swansea Arena aimed to provide students with contemporary perspectives on the teaching profession. It explored what it’s like to work with ALN students, in addition to general teaching practices and wellbeing for both pupils and teachers.

Speakers included Nina Jackson whose talk, entitled ‘Labels are for tins, not for people’, explored the importance of appreciating individuality within the classroom. Dr. Emma Kell, a Performance Coach with 25 years of teaching experience, delivered an inspirational session on teacher wellbeing and how to navigate the ups and downs of the profession, followed by Sian Owen who offered a personal take on living alongside those with learning disabilities and Autistic Spectrum Condition.

The keynote speeches concluded with a presentation from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes MBE, who took up the post in April 2022 to promote and protect children’s rights in Wales for the next seven years. Rocio inspired students by detailing her own journey, from child-refugee in the 1970s to becoming Chief Executive of the charity Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Wales.

Children's Commissioner for Wales at ALN Conference January 23

UWTSD’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr. Dylan Jones, spoke directly to the students about the role of the teacher within a supportive and inclusive classroom. He emphasised the importance of educators taking a personal approach, and that strategizing must be combined with a good culture and learning environment in order for pupils, and teachers, to succeed:

“Strategy without culture is like a well-designed car without a good engine,” he said. “It is our responsibility as leaders within education at all levels to ensure that our culture is the best engine possible, to give the most momentum for all to succeed, whatever barrier they face.”

An expert ALN panel discussion was also included, and following the speakers on both days, students moved into the University’s IQ Building and Dylan Thomas Centre for afternoon workshops delivered by lecturers, education and health professionals based in south Wales, and some of UWTSD’s own student teachers.

The conference was organised by UWTSD’s Nanna Ryder, Senior Lecturer at Yr Athrofa. She says: “Our vision is that UWTSD student teachers enter the teaching profession with inclusion, justice and well-being at the heart of every aspect of their pedagogy and practice. We were very honoured to welcome such high profile keynote speakers to enact that vision.

“The inspirational messages shared from the main stage, as well as the multi-disciplinary nature of the workshops have prepared our student teachers to be agents of change. We hope that this conference has inspired them to enter the teaching profession to transform the lives of our diverse and most vulnerable learners.”

Yr Athrofa is the Centre for education at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. It brings together Initial Teacher Education programmes and other professional qualifications for educators in all sectors of the education system.

Sian Owen, speaker at ALN conference January 23

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