nasen in Northern Ireland

News - 1 December 2019

A new (NI based) SEND Advisory Group was formed in October 2018. The group consists of a range of educational professionals, all with a passion for supporting children and young people with SEND. The members of the group come from a range of different backgrounds with a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experiences to support the work of nasen.

Dr Brenda Montgomery: EdD, MEd, DASE, Dip HE, PGCTE.

Brenda is the chair of the nasen Northern Ireland Special Educational Needs Advisory Group and also a member of the nasen UK Special Educational Needs SENCo and Learning Support Group, demonstrating her continued passion for children and young people with SEND and in particular those with Social, Behavioural, Emotional and Well-Being (SBEW) difficulties. Brenda was the Advisor for SEN/Behaviour Support with the Education Authority (SEELB) in Northern Ireland for 18 years, during which time she was seconded to the SEN team at the Department of Education (DE) for three years. Prior to that Brenda taught in a Post Primary School in Belfast for 22 years, where she was SENCo for nine years. Brenda has also been an assessor for inclusion and has tutored and presented on the policy and practice of SEND at schools, universities and colleges throughout Ireland.

Lorraine McAleer: BA(QTS).

Lorraine is the Managing Director and founder (2007) of Learning SPACE(Specialised Products Aiding Child Education), an award-winning educational advisory and resource company.Her “spark” for Learning SPACE came from supporting her sister who has Soto Syndrome; Lorraine is passionate about meeting the needs of children and young people who need additional support. Lorraine is an experienced teacher and a proven manager with over 20 years experience in the education and sensory world.

Ann McCann MA, MSSc BA (Hons) DASE PGCE (Commendation), PQH, Dip SEN. 

Ann is a Special Educational Needs Teacher and Senior Leader working in an EOTAS (Education other than at School) Centre. She has 25 years teaching experience across all sectors including Special Education and Alternative Education and has a passion for a focus on school improvement.

 Laura McClure: BEd (Hons),PGCE.

Laura is a Specialist Teacher working for the EA (Education Authority) Language and Communication Service. As a teacher for the past 16 years, Laura is passionate about effectively supporting children and young people who have Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) and other co-occurring difficulties. Laura was involved in the SEN CPD Literacy Project achieving Approved Practitioner Status of the British Dyslexia Association and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education Studies. She is a member of NAPLIC and the Sensory Integration Network and is currently working towards a MEd in SEN.

 Gillian Beck: MEd (Distinction), BEd ( Hons), AMBDA, ATS, FHET.

Gillian is a Senior Lecturer at Stranmillis University College where she lectures in Special and Additional Needs and Literacy across degrees at under- and post-  graduate level. Prior to taking up that position in 2012, she was a primary teacher for 16 years, a full time SEN teacher (Nursery - P7) and SENCO for eight years, Inclusion Co- ordinator, Gifted and Talented Co-ordinator and had  responsibility for newcomer children and 17 Classroom Assistants. Gillian spent seven years of her teaching career working with children with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder(ASD) and continues to pursue her passion in that area; she is a PhD researcher with the Ulster University focusing on sensory provision in the mainstream environment.

Maria Diffin: MEd, BEd, AMBDA, PQH.

Maria is an experienced teacher of 34 Years, 18 of which she has been a SENCo. She is also the Assessment Co- ordinator, trained Reading Recovery Teacher and member of the Senior Leadership Team at St Bernard’s Primary School in Belfast. She started her teaching career in the post-primary sector in Canterbury where she worked for two years, then taught in Hillingdon in London for 10 years where she was the ICT co-ordinator. Maria has a passion for supporting children with dyslexia and completed an AMBDA Qualification and an MEd in Teaching and Assessing pupils with Dyslexia. Maria was seconded to Stranmillis University College for a year to deliver training programmes to schools in Northern Ireland on raising awareness of dyslexia and how to support pupils in the classroom.

Lois Totton: MBA, BEd, Adv Cert Ed.

Lois is a Senior Lecturer at Stranmillis University College. She has responsibility for teaching BEd primary and post primary Education with a particular focus on Special Educational Needs. Lois is also the course leader for the SEN First CPD programme and the Faculty contact for Study Abroad - US. Prior to taking up her position at Stranmillis, Lois completed a 25 year teaching career working across post primary and further education sectors. Lois demonstrates her passion for SEN through her research history of the journey and history of Special Education in Northern Ireland and parental experience of accessing SEN support.  She is also a School Governor in a Special School.

Alastair Rowan: MEd, BA, PGCE, PQH.

Alastair is the vice chair of the nasen Northern Ireland Special  Educational Needs Advisory Group and currently works part time as a Development Officer for an Education Support Body. His previous experiences include 35 years of teaching which included being Principal of an Integrated College, Head of Mathematics of a large comprehensive school and Sports Coach. Throughout the varied aspects of Alastair’s career, he developed an interest and passion for SEN and acted as a Volunteer Ambassador for nasen in  Northern Ireland for two years.