We are saddened to learn of the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

We send our sincere condolences to our Patron, Her Majesty the Queen and The Royal Family at this time.

The legacy of his public service is a lasting one, not least through the Duke of Edinburgh award, transforming young people’s lives.  Seashell students have participated in the programme, providing skills, confidence and resilience and we are proud to support our local community through their endeavours to achieve the award.

^ HM The Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh celebrating The Queen’s patronage of over 600 charities, including Seashell Trust, on the occasion of her 90th birthday.


Throughout the pandemic, Seashell has continued to support our community members by providing provision through our Seashell Active programme and Seashell community services during a time where we all went through a lot of change and having to isolate or shield.

We stayed in touch with our community during the frightening first months of lockdown being a voice on the phone or through online fitness classes, one to one sessions, coffee mornings and CADS sports events during school holidays when we were able. We even managed to help our oldest member celebrate their 97th birthday with the delivery of an exercise equipment bag to help them be active in the home.

We know Seashell Active’s provision is vital, it helps to rebuild connections, community, reduces isolation and loneliness and supports people’s health and social care needs.

As the nation starts to emerge from lockdown, for many SEND families building routine and activity back into their lives will take time and require our support. Over the coming months Seashell Active will focus on creating that bespoke approach to help people find their way back to happy, healthy lives.

Our team will make sure all the necessary safety measures are in place to ensure people can access our services safely. We understand that for families with a disabled child or young person a flexible, personal approach really matters.

Here are comments from just some of our community:

“Lockdown has been pretty isolating and at times overwhelming attempting to keep both boys happy and entertained. It’s a constant battle, especially with my son to try and engage him in things away from a screen and to try to get him to do more physical activity.”

“Our LUSU bag arrived today. Thank you so much. I feel totally overwhelmed to receive such an amazing kit for the boys.”

“CADS has really gone above and beyond in reaching out and thinking of ways to engage with children at home, we have felt so included rather than most other things that my child just won’t engage with.”

“T loved his fitness sessions and we look forward to continuing with them. They were brilliant. We love the Seashell gym, and the team have worked really effectively and have really helped him. He is looking forward to getting back when it reopens.”

“The course for me was really good, and it has helped my mobility I think. Because when we go out for walks with the dogs I feel steadier.”

Seashell places inclusive wellbeing, sport and recreation at the heart of our work and we are working to become a national centre of excellence for inclusive sports and activity, for student and community use.

As society recovers from COVID-19, Seashell will help local communities to manage and recover from the impact of COVID-19, we aim to improve the health and wellbeing of our community and improve community integration by ensuring there is an inclusive response to reopening our services, with our focus and specialism of supporting and engaging disabled people.

We would like to thank our partners, stakeholders and funders for the at home inclusive kit and equipment bags (Lloyds Banking Group, Vernon Building Society and the National Lottery Emerging Futures Fund) for supporting Seashell, if you would like to hear more about what we do, support our work or become a volunteer, please do get in touch.

March is Sleep Awareness Month and on the 19 March, World Sleep Day is celebrated. The fact that we mark this globally shows the rising awareness of the importance of sleep for both our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

Issues with sleep are much more common than you might think. Reporting is varied, but it is estimated that between 8% and 34% of us suffer. And children and young adults with learning disabilities are even more likely to suffer as a result of inadequate sleep, with around 9.2% of people with learning disabilities considered to have ‘significant sleep disturbances’. (E. van de Wouw et al., 2012).

Autistic people take, on average, 11 minutes longer than neurotypical people to fall asleep and between 44% and 83% (Patzold et al, 1998; Richdale & Prior, 1995; Wiggs & Stores, 1996) are afflicted with sleep problems. Children with ADHD have higher rates of daytime sleepiness than those without (Cortese et al., 2006). 50% have disordered breathing during sleep, compared to 22% of those without ADHD. (Golan et al, 2004).

There are a huge number of reasons for this including health conditions, anxiety, side effects of medication, sight and hearing impairments and a greater likelihood to suffer from sleep apnoea. However, in addition to medical factors, families frequently claim that ‘challenging behaviour’ is the primary cause of sleep issues.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase challenging behaviours, limit educational outcomes and lead to obesity (DfE, 2010). Sleep difficulties have also been linked to higher levels of stress for the whole family, resulting in increased pressure on mental health services.

At Seashell, we believe we can make a huge difference to the lives of families with children and young people with disabilities who are experiencing sleep problems. We do this by focusing on behaviours, which stops the cycle of impaired sleep.

We’ve recently worked with The Sleep Charity – who trained three members of our team – on a programme of sleep support to families, offering one to one clinics, workshops and training courses. In March, the National Lottery’s Awards For All Community Fund showed their belief in this important work, by donating £10,000, of which £5,000 will fund our sleep programme. We are incredibly grateful to them for this. The families that we work with benefit hugely. In fact, we have seen families go from saying they feel depressed, isolated and lonely in regards to sleep to confident, positive and supported, which we are incredibly proud of.

Parent Case Study

We recently worked with Sarah’s* Mum in a one to one clinic. Afterwards, she said ‘The past week I have slept through the night every night without having to get up and be caring to my child needs, this is the first time in 11 years, yes 11 years! Jenny listened to me saying I’m exhausted and I feel like I had exhausted all my options with my daughter – she told me she would help me, and that she has.  I was given some strategies to aim for with my daughter and wow the advice I have been given has turned mine and my daughter’s life around. A whole week’s sleep! I am honestly so thankful for the advice and the support I was given afterwards help me and my daughter. A fantastic service from Jenny and her team, thank you’.

*Name changed

If you’d like more information about our Sleep Support, or any of the specialist training, assessment or consultancy we provide, please visit our Events page or contact our Outreach Team here.

Royal School Manchester teacher, Jean Barratt, runs a programme at Seashell which looks to develop our students’ skills through horticulture. The programme evolves with the seasons, with school holidays providing a demarcation point for Seashell’s students to change: i.e. from sowing seeds in May to harvesting in June and June and planting in autumn.

Jean and her team invest any profits from sales in the ongoing project development, running a mini-enterprise for our students. Seashell’s students complete the bulk of the work, with Jean tidying their floral displays upon completion to ensure a professional finish. The development of students’ skills is the main focus within the horticulture programme and the skills of Jean’s team are boundless.

Jean takes to writing short pieces to truly provide an insight into the activities of the horticulture programme and the key development of Seashell’s students:

Tales from the Greenhouse │ March 2021

It has been a long, cold winter this year and the beginnings of the spring sunshine have felt like a ray of hope in these COVID-19 days.  To be honest, even without the constraints of the virus there is something wonderful about the lengthening days and the opportunity to spend more time outside.  I always look forward to it and the calm atmosphere of the garden seems to suit many of the students I work with.

However, there is little time for contemplation as my team of apprentices move into the busiest part of our school year.  The older students have been making up spring planters to sell and have done a jolly good job.  It is a while since we have done them so my team are needing prompts to keep them on track to produce saleable items.  It’s not unusual for them to become a little rusty over the winter but by the end of May they will have had all their skills sharpened and some will be working virtually independently.

Please do try this at home!  For the price of a few bedding plants you can create something beautiful with your family.  We can turn anything into a planter – old wellingtons, teapots…so there doesn’t need to be a huge cost involved. Encourage the whole family to join in as it is genuinely accessible in some form to everyone.  I always set out a limited palette of colours so that while choices can be made, the outcome is always pleasing to the eye.  I always try and end the session with the plants being watered; over time my students recognise that this is part of the natural cycle and many will automatically reach for the watering can when all the plants are in. It should be noted that they occasionally water me too and are highly amused by this so be prepared!

If you mix up the textures or scents of the plants offered you can make this a meaningful experience for even the most complex needs.  Encourage them to explore everything to the full and ‘talk’ about everything you are using.  A wise colleague once said to me that there was no point trying to teach a VI or MSI student how to use a cup unless you had explained the ‘cupness of the cup’ to them. It was probably the most valuable insight I have ever had and it has served me well.  So take time to help them feel the ‘potness of the pot’, inside and out, show what is up and down, how soil falls out if it is the wrong way up and so on.  It can take a long time to do this, so make sure you have a spell where you don’t have to deal with other things and I promise you that over time it will prove a useful tool.

The other great benefit of working with seasonal plants is that it provides youngsters with prolonged but temporary engagement with the activity.  In the summer the plants will need to be watered daily and over the holidays it can provide some welcome routine to the day.  They will experience the changes in their plants as they develop and bloom over the summer.  My students are always fascinated by the bees and butterflies who visit us and provide us with points of interest to talk about.  By the autumn the plants will be looking ragged and starting to wither; the textures of leaves change and eventually the plants die.  So from a handful of bedding plants you will have generated a ‘conversation’ which has lasted for months and taught some enduring lessons about care for living things and the natural cycle of life and death.  Give it a go!

In the last days of the spring term we have begun prepping our vegetable beds and already have our garlic and shallots popping through.  When we come back after Easter and the ground is a little warmer, we will be sowing our carrot and parsnip drills.  We have grown carrots before but parsnips are a new departure for us.  So watch this space for a summer update on how it went.  Radishes always go down well and we will be sowing them every fortnight to keep a steady supply going.  These are a really good choice as they grow quickly and many of my students really relish their peppery taste.

Younger students have been planting runner beans in pots ready to plant out later.  This is a good way to teach younger children how to handle tools and the process of planting as it engages all the fine motor skills of the hands.  If you try this at home, be careful not to over-water if the weather is cool as the beans will turn mouldy and rot long before they have a chance to germinate.

We will also be growing some tomatoes, another favourite.  In fact one of my students was in checking the greenhouse this week to make sure I wasn’t keeping some hidden in there.  In previous years, once he knew the tomatoes were ready, he fully embraced the ‘pick your own’ philosophy and more than met his ‘five a day’ requirements.

And of course we always grow lots of flowers to bring in the pollinators and for the sheer joy of the colours.  This year we are sowing a cottage garden mix with lots of cornflower in it and godetia in our formal flower beds.  If you haven’t come across godetia before you really must google it. They come in a range of pinks from almost white to mauves and magentas.  Gorgeous!  Sow straight in the ground but leave room for later sowings so you have a continuous supply of lovely blooms.  They are about 12 inches tall so one for nearer the front of the border.

And as if we weren’t going to be busy enough, we will be launching our summer basket refill service which proved so popular in previous years.  This is very hard work for us all but the steady stream of orders provides a real-time, real-life work experience where genuine work skills are practised consistently over a whole term.  As I said right at the start of this piece, by the time we break for summer, some of the students will have refined their skills to a point where they are virtually working solo in planting up, and all will have increased their repertoire of functional work skills. What more could I wish for!

So if you think you might see your family having a go at some of the things we are doing next term – DON’T HESITATE, just have a go!

Here you can find Seashell policies, publications and useful information

Seashell’s long-awaited Project Transformation to build a new school and campus, has started today.

Contractors started work today (1 February 2021) on the project to build a new school, redevelop the existing college, create a new site entrance and reception building, build a new four-court sports hall, gym and pavilion, new training facilities, community engagement and administration facilities and a new assessment and early years centre.

The start of the project, which has been years in the planning and will take more than five years to complete, was welcomed by Seashell Chief Executive and Principal, Jolanta McCall, who described the day as ‘truly momentous for all of the Seashell community’.

She said: “We have worked incredibly hard to get Project Transformation off the ground and I am delighted to see work start today. This is more than a building project: It represents a bright future for children and young people with complex learning disabilities and I am looking forward to the exciting milestones ahead of us.

“Today sees the start of the work on our new school and this is very much the beginning. We will continue to innovate and fundraise and deliver the very best for all our students and residents as we develop the facilities for the future.”

The first phase of the construction project will see a new school developed which is expected to open in autumn 2022, and a new site entrance and reception building, again expected to open in autumn 2022.

Project Transformation is being delivered by construction experts Willmott Dixon and any residents who have any questions about the development should email ProjectTransformation@seashelltrust.org.uk.

*Image from left to right: Phil Lavers (Willmott Dixon), Jolanta McCall (Chief Executive and Principal, Seashell), Mark Ascroft (Director of Finance & Strategy, Seashell).

As for most people, 2020 was a challenging year for everyone at Seashell. Due to the large number of events cancelled, Seashell has experienced a drop in vital funds.

While our young people’s care and education is funded by local authorities, we rely on fundraising to ensure that we can deliver the very best facilities and life experiences possible. We need to raise approximately £800,000 each year to provide items such as accessible minibuses to take young people off site, iPads with technology that enables children to communicate or sports equipment for our inclusive community sports programmes.

We are truly embracing 2021 and asking all supporters to consider doing something fun for us this year, no matter how big or small.

In 2020, three Seashell supporters decided to take on a team challenge by organising a virtual Inca Trail Trek, completing the 26.2 miles in three different parts of the country.

Another supporter, Anisha Chawla, is raising money for Seashell by running 21km or 21 February 2021 as part of the Bring It On campaign.

When asked why Anisha chose Seashell, she said: “It would be difficult to select a single reason as to why I chose to support Seashell. However, a key reason lies within the genuineness of the charity, and the children it supports”.

As a supporter of Seashell, there are many ideas for virtual events that you could undertake – for example, you could cover the distance of Lands’ End to John O’Groats on a treadmill, or climb the height of Snowdon on your own staircase.

It might be a physical challenge as a fresh start or something to really involve your local community, whether that be local, business or just your own tribe!

Whatever target you have set or fundraising you are doing, your efforts and sponsorship will enable our children and young people to live more independent and fulfilling lives. The team at Seashell are here to help with all your Fundraising ideas and needs – no matter how crazy!

Please get in touch with our Fundraising Team, email fundraising@seashelltrust.org.uk or call 0161 610 0168 to speak to our Fundraising team.


Adapting to delivering education programmes to our Deafblind / MSI children and young people during the past year has been extremely challenging. The main challenge staff at Seashell are facing is how to make learning meaningful for Deafblind learners, who often rely primarily on their tactile sense to communicate and find out about their world.

Engaging with Seashell’s families and providing them with supportive coaching is crucial to the success of our remote teaching and learning. The pandemic has led families to quickly adapt to provide Intervener support for their children and young people, a role which many were not prepared or trained for.

The main considerations when planning and delivering the remote teaching sessions are as follows:

  • Backgrounds had to be plain, no brightly coloured wallpaper and staff were advised to wear plain clothing. Visual distraction had to be minimised for the learner
  • Positioning of their screen, ensuring that it was fixed (if possible) within their visual field and the brightness was adjusted to meet their individual needs
  • Exaggerating our movements and using bright, colour resources to attract visual attention
  • Sound quality: staff were advised to wear a headset to deliver the session
  • Background noise in both environments had to be kept to a minimum so the learner’s ability to listen could be maximised
  • Tactile exploration was facilitated by the family members so modelling of a ‘hand under hand’ approach was crucial
  • Technology needed to work immediately, as there may only be a small window of opportunity when the young person is awake, engaged and ready to learn
  • Enabling rest breaks for the learner. Visual fatigue is common when attending to a screen for prolonged periods
  • Verbal instructions needed to be clear and simple. Times for chat were important to ‘check in’ with the family, but we tried to limit them to the start and end of the session.
  • Routines and scripts needed to be followed and similar equipment used as they had been used to e.g. finished boxes
  • How to make the learning fun and motivational for the learner and their family with resources already in the home or those we had dropped on the doorstep; we did not want to create additional stress for the family during difficult times.
  • It is essential to implement these correctly in order to emulate the good practice followed within our everyday ‘face to face’ teaching of MSI learners here at Seashell.

If you are a professional working with Deafblind/MSI learners and have any questions or would like to find out more about our services, please get in touch with our Outreach team.

Seashell, in partnership with Oliver Dunn of Oli’s Chocolate Parties, has been awarded an Official Guinness World Record for “Most users in a lollipop-making video hangout”.

On Saturday 5 December 2020 Seashell teamed up with master chocolatier, Oliver (also known as Oli the Choc), for the online chocolate lollipop making workshop. A total of 511 people took part in the online hangout to help Seashell and Oliver set the record.

In addition to achieving the Guinness World Record, Oliver has made a donation of £7,642 to Seashell from the sale of the kits.

Events Fundraiser at Seashell, Jo Barber, said: “We’re sending a huge Seashell thank you to everyone who bought a lollipop kit and took part in the World Record attempt.

“To raise £13,000 at a time when our fundraising has been devastated by the impact of Covid-19 is a significant amount for Seashell, and we couldn’t be more grateful to Oliver for all his support.”

Oliver said: “Seashell does amazing work helping young people with complex disabilities, so we were delighted to support them by raising much-needed funds.

 “And to get the World Record is a bonus – I’m so thrilled! Well done to everyone involved for the part you played in helping us achieve this fantastic feat.”