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Embracing Inclusion: Supporting learners with Down Syndrome and other learning disabilities in the mainstream classroom

  • Online
  • 10 Oct 2024 (15:30 - 17:00)
Live Webinar

Sharon Smith from the Down's Syndrome Association will lead this webinar. As well as working for the DSA, Sharon is a mother of a young lady who has Down syndrome, who successfully went through mainstream education (including secondary school). She has recently completed her PhD research, exploring experiences of inclusion and exclusion in education with mothers of learning-disabled children. 

In the webinar, Sharon will discuss how to work with families to support the inclusion of learning-disabled pupils, including those with the most complex needs, in a mainstream classroom. She will draw on personal anecdotes about what worked well for her daughter, findings from her PhD research and the wide range of resources and support available from the Down's Syndrome Association. Although these resources are designed with pupils who have Down's Syndrome in mind, they are also likely to be relevant for other pupils with similar learning needs The session will be hosted by Whole School SEND National Coordinator Alison Betts.


  • To discuss approaches and strategies for welcoming learners who have Down’s syndrome into mainstream education settings/classrooms
  • To discuss differentiation for learners not working at the same level as the majority in the classroom
  • To discuss things that matter to families/children and how to centre the child in meaningful person-centred planning 
  • To demonstrate the resources and support available from the Down’s Syndrome Association for educators/school leaders

Desired outcomes

  • Increased confidence to include learners who have Down’s syndrome / learning disabilities in a mainstream classroom so that more learners can start and stay in mainstream education settings throughout their education journey
  • The development of proactive inclusive cultures, strategies and practices
  • To prevent conflict or crisis situations with families by addressing issues quickly and in partnership
  • Increased knowledge about what support is available to those working in education when welcoming a learner who has Down’s syndrome / a learning disability in their classroom


Suitable for: Inclusion Manager/Leader, SENCO, Support staff, Teacher, Newly Qualified Teacher, Teaching Assistant

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Meet your trainer

Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith is mother to a 19-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome. As a result, she has volunteered and worked for several disability related organisations over the past 18 years, including being co-founder of a Down syndrome support group and being the Chair of her local parent carer forum. Sharon is also in the final stages of undertaking PhD research in which she explores the experiences of mothers of disabled children in relation to their education. Sharon's daughter has benefited from using person-centred ways of working with her education settings at key transition points, and she is happy to share this personal experience.

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Meet your trainer

Alison Betts

Alison has been a teacher for 26 years and is currently Whole School SEND National Coordinator. She has previously been a class teacher, nurture teacher, SENDCO, Head of Chestnut Nursery School, and Head of Inclusion for Exeter Children’s Federation. She has been on the board of trustees at nurtureuk since 2016 and has a passion for improving the education and life chances of children from a background of deprivation. Her interest in children affected by social, emotional and/or mental health issues encouraged her to become a Specialist Leader in Education for the Exeter Consortium and Teaching School Alliance. Through this role she helps lead the Professional Community for SEND for South West Institute for Teaching (SWIFT). This community works to support schools identifying and meeting children’s needs and so reduce permanent exclusions across schools in the Southwest. She aims to keep the well-being of children at the heart of everything she does.