Andy Beadsley, director of the Wheelyboat Trust, and Jennifer Cameron, the CEO of Action4Youth, talk to Education For Everybody magazine about the new fully-accessible powerboat launched recently at the Caldecotte Xperience in Milton Keynes…
What challenges do SEND schools face when organising trips and how does Caldecotte Xperience address these issues?
SEND groups face a number of challenges when organising trips including ensuring that staff qualifications are of a high standard to instil confidence in the staff booking the activities. Caldecotte Xperience addresses multiple issues with the qualifications of the staff being outstanding and this is used as a benchmark when deciding whether to go elsewhere. This results in re-booking rates being very high as we always compare favourably.
Getting to and from any new venue for any activity can be difficult with SEND participants. The centre is in a prime position with great road and nearby rail links enabling ease of access from around the area and within the town itself. The centre minibus has proved invaluable to some members of Action4Youth allowing them to extend the provision of their stays, adding extra activities available at local amenities and help keep the costs down. As both land and water sports activities are close together the arrangements during a stay are logistically easy to manage. Transfers from the car park to either venue is easy due to the single level access.
The Wheelyboat adds to the variety of what is on offer to the children and participants. It means that the participants can completely be independent boarding and disembarking. It gives them the freedom to be in control of the boat from their wheelchair and be on the same ability level as able bodied peers. They can become qualified in an activity that they could not achieve without the accessibility of the new boat.
Donna Mulholland from Redway School, told us, “The range of activities fit all students criteria, complies with the ASDAN units for outdoor learning, new experience, residential stay and independent living and sport which means that it fits in with the curriculum requirements perfectly.”
What facilities are there on the wider site at Caldecotte Xperience for disabled visitors?
Caldecotte Xperience’s facilities for disabled visitors are extensive, from parking all on one level with paths to access different parts of the site, to self-catering and catering options in the residential facility. We make every effort to accommodate dietary requirements with the ability to prepare feeds and soft food diets in a safe kitchen.
There are also spaces to change and furniture has been placed to give excellent access to allow for turning circles, walking aids, guide dogs, support staff etc.
The accommodation is varied with a mixture of dormitory-style rooms. They promote social interaction, accessible beds and mobile hoists – we also have the water hoist for access to boats – ramps to access where necessary, wider doors, wet rooms and access furniture for transferring where needed.
We can also accommodate apparatus to ensure the health and comfort of participants while taking part through clever use of particular boats, activities and locations.
How do children react when they are on the Wheelyboat, and what do they learn during the day out on the water?
The children and participants are so excited by the feeling they get on the Wheelyboat. Some of the children have tears of happiness; some scream excitedly; some are very quiet and reflective. We have seen efforts to communicate increase; communicating to go faster and turn and wanting to learn how to take control and act as crew on board.
The participants learn how to be properly dressed for the boat, fasten the zips and clips on the buoyancy aids, learn nautical command vocabulary and use devices to assist with communication such as ‘Big Mac’ – a pre-recordable button which speaks a command word such as STOP to use on the boat when there is need to stop the boat. Also, ASDAN qualifications can be achieved as well as RYA Sailing and Powerability qualifications.
For some participants this is the only interaction with the outside world beyond their home and school and we strive to make it the best experience that it can be for the staff organising the visit to enable the participants to have the most enrichment from their time here.
Donna added, “On the return journey to school there is a buzz of pure joy from all participants and from the staff at what has been achieved!”
Whereabouts does the Wheelyboat Trust operate and are there plans to roll out more Wheelyboats in the future?
The Wheelyboat Trust is a national charity and Wheelyboats operate all over the UK from the north of Scotland to the west of Cornwall.
The role of our Wheelyboat Trust is to help organisations like Action 4 Youth and Young Epilepsy acquire Wheelyboats for them to operate on behalf of their disabled service users and students.
We are about to launch a Coulam Wheelyboat V20 at Liverpool Watersports Centre and we are currently working with Fife Sailability and a Sea Scout troop on the River Thames to help them acquire V20 Wheelyboats.