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‘Flying’ education ace is grounded…for now

Date 8.04.2020

The pandemic is giving everyone a new ‘normal’ working day, especially for one globetrotting graduate who is temporarily grounded after months ‘on the wing’.

Hannah Brighton – originally from Great Yarmouth – graduated from the University’s Special Educational Needs and Inclusion (SEN&I) programme in 2016, gaining a First-Class honours degree.

Although currently in self-isolation with husband Luke, her degree has taken her far afield as an in-demand ‘flying’ SEN&I expert and unofficial ambassador for the profession.

Hannah explains: “I had been working in Doha, Qatar around the time of the pandemic starting and Luke and I had to leave in quite a hurry before they closed the borders, but we made it back safe and sound. Since then, we’ve been here in Great Yarmouth, which is a very weird feeling considering our last few months!

“Before leaving, Luke and I also had the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka, Oman, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Jordan, and Turkey. I’m not quite up to the Michael Palin standard, but it’s still been a considerable journey!

“I had always wanted to travel, so it’s no surprise my first official job was at an international school in Dohar and I was kept very busy there.

“Before I arrived, there was no SEN team so my first task was setting up their SEN provision and creating an entire department from scratch. I managed a team of five delivering really effective support across the school from early years through to year six, with our work positively reported during an inspection, something I am very proud of.”

Hannah’s work helping people recognise the value of SEN&I is also driving a mini-cultural shift in countries that don’t traditionally appreciate SEN: “The general consensus is that international SEN is way behind the UK, possibly 10 to 15 years in some areas. Culturally, accepting a SEN child, getting that child all the support they need and even recognising and defining SEN&I, are big issues.

“There is still a very long way to go to remedy this, but after seeing a family bloom after we start helping to support and develop their child makes me think I’m nudging things in the right direction, one child at a time.

“A SEN&I specific degree is still a rarity because few universities offer it and even fewer did when I enrolled in 2013. It can take some explaining for people to understand it, but internationally the response has always been positive and the qualification is held in high regard.”

Although the pandemic has yet to pass before she flies off again, Hannah hopes to jet back to Asia: “Realistically we’re looking at August before we move again – to Vietnam. We are still working remotely using a virtual learning platform for our school in Doha, but also using this time in isolation to read books I’d forgotten about and walk in the fresh air, a novelty from city life!

“After Vietnam, Luke and I plan to visit Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and go back to Hong Kong to visit the friends made during a University placement, going professionally full circle and (nearly) around the globe at the same time!”

Find out more about the SEN&I (Ba) degree at University of Northampton.