Releasing Potential Institute hosted their third annual conference on Wednesday 10th July 2019 with much success. Delegates from across West Sussex and Hampshire gathered to develop their skills and discuss best practice. ‘Managing Transitions in Education, Support and Social Care’ was a fitting topic given the current climate: Brexit, political turmoil and increasing demands on services. The day provided an opportunity to share experiences, knowledge and opinions and ideas regarding transitions for children and young people.

The day started with an inspiring Keynote delivered by Dr Kathy Weston. Kathy discussed to what extent to which our communication as parents/teachers/professionals can help or hinder transitions for children and young people. She emphasised on the use of optimistic and positive language, especially in difficult circumstances, to help build resilience. She explained that the resilient child can resist adversity, cope with uncertainty and recover more successfully from traumatic events or episodes (Newman 2004). Manged risk was a topic that was discussed frequently throughout the day and many agreed that it was important to let children and young people make mistakes. However, as Kathy argued, we must assist them with next steps and provide suitable support and guidance when needed.

Our second Keynote was Hugh Constant from the Social Care Institute for Excellence. Hugh discussed the boundaries, limitations and expectations of the Social Care sector and how SCIE has evolved since being established in 2001. ‘Preparing for Adulthood: Better Transitions to Adult Social Care’ was based on a new report commissioned by the Chief Social Worker for Adults and published by the SCIE. Several elements of theory and general practise were discussed, as well as possible anxieties from both the individual transitioning and people contributing to the transition process. Hugh’s paper sparked debate around the number of service teams involved in a single transition and the challenges that this brings.

Our 2019 programme was packed with four parallel workshop sessions, each with three strands to choose from. As the work of the Releasing Potential Institute is underpinned by our commitment to four core research areas, we knew delegates would be hard pushed to choose from workshops on Special Educational Needs, Post-16 Transitions, Inclusion and Exclusion, Social Care and Support and School Transitions. Therefore, the Institute team ensured that our programme was inclusive and showed real variety.

Social Care professionals, including Dr John Crosbie and Andrew Gordon, discussed mental health and the ways in which services contribute to and complicate transitions. They also highlighted small changes that we, as professionals, can make to prevent anxieties from building: such as techniques for using the outdoors to include those with disabilities, and patient-focussed decision-making.

Jannine Harris, founder of ADHD Wise UK, encouraged debate during her interactive workshop. In a true or false quiz, Jannine tested our knowledge and challenged assumptions made about ADHD. The workshop was a real eye opener. A Releasing Potential tutor that attended the workshop said “I always knew that those with ADHD struggled with the concept of time. Jannine reminded me that the challenge is not just about telling the time, but also understanding the concept of time and how long it takes to complete activities. It was a lightbulb moment and I left the workshop thinking of techniques I can use to help my students”.

Charlie Adie, founder of Bicycle Recycling, and Jenny Connick, from Talentino, spoke about Post-16 transitions and what they have each put in place to help those in need. They highlighted that if there is a concept or a purpose that will engage the young person, the behaviour and routine will (usually) follow naturally.

The final workshop was hosted by our very own Mike King and Lara Penfold, presenting on Releasing Potential School’s transition to become a registered independent school in preparation for their first Ofsted inspection. Mike began to explain the journey that Releasing Potential took over a period of 18 years and how he and the team responded to the challenges they faced. Lara then discussed the thoughts, feelings and anxieties experienced by both staff and students, and how sacrifices were made in order to become a registered school.

Overall, the conference prompted much debate and inspired discussion around how best to manage transitions for children and young people against the backdrop of cuts to funding and political upheaval. One thing that became apparent is that good communication between services, and directly with children and young people, is vital for smooth transition processes. We had a truly wonderful day at New Place Hotel, and we are delighted to receive such positive feedback from delegates.

Just a reminder that exclusive Releasing Potential Institute discount codes can be found in your delegate pack and are valid until the end of 2019.

Resources and images from the 10th July 2019, can be found here.

If you wish to contribute to our 2020 conference or would like to discuss anything further, please do not hesitate to get in touch.