What happened on the last Sensory Festival?



“(The videos) are absolutely fabulous and enlightening”

Anna Crowe, Oak Grove College



“Desperately trying to get as many courses as possible looked at from the sensory festival before things go today… everything I have listened to has been absolutely brilliant – thank you so much”

Emily Webster, Vice principal, Thomas Wolsey Academy



“This was a fantastic course with some great ideas and enthused and excited me. Brilliant value for money.”

Kate Baldwin, Assistant Headteacher, Victoria Education Centre



“If you are after feedback on useful and positive trainings, this has been one of the best I have ever done. Firstly, it is on the whole relevant to the students I teach, which is rare. Secondly, as it is online, I am able to do it in small chunks, when I am able, over a few days. This suits me better as when on a course I always find that I am zoning out for the last session, am at my saturation point and am not absorbing anything. If I found myself fading doing this online, I could come back later. Also, it was so cheap in comparison to paying the course fee, accommodation, travel etc. This is the way forward!”

Sophie Vye, Teacher, Victoria Education Centre



“I really enjoyed the festival and was great to see everyone and hear from them and all the amazing ideas and support.”

Kelly Fedun, Dawn House Deputy Principal



“Some of our staff have done this or are doing it this week and they think it is amazing!”

Susanna Sutton, Mabel Pritchard School




“I cannot thank all you beautiful people at Hirstwood Training enough for this AMAZING Sensory Festival!  Seriously do not know how I will go back to face to face professional development after this”.

Anna Boikov, Specialist Teacher Outreach Service

Oaklynn Special School, New Zealand



“We all had a great time over the weekend and found the festival so inspirational!

It was such a wonderful idea to do this online as we would not have been able to attend otherwise. Being able to talk to people from all over the country (and further afield) about our pupils was amazing!”

Lesley Connacher, Principal Teacher, Croftcroighn School



“The training was great, such good feedback from staff.  When are you doing another?”

Karen Goodwill, Sensory Lead, Pathfield School



“The festival was fab.”

Nicola Lavery, Headteacher, Ashton Secondary


“Can I just say a massive thank you to yourself, Richard, Carol and all the other fantastic people contributing to this festival for such an amazing, informative and inspirational event. I learned so much, was reminded of even more and got so many fantastic ideas. I can’t wait to start back in September now!”

Catherine Fulcher

Thank you!


We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved with The Sensory Festival  on the 11-12 July 2020, which was a tremendous success. We are enormously grateful to all of the presenters, contributors and participants for helping to make this such a fabulous weekend of online collaboration and learning.


What happened at The Sensory Festival?


The Sensory Festival (11-12 July online) brought together a community of parents and practitioners to collaborate, experiment, create and share exciting new ideas and ways of working with learners with complex needs, autism and SEND.


It was a weekend of informal video presentations, online workshops and question and answer sessions.


Lockdown has been a very challenging and isolating time for both parents and practitioners.  The Sensory Festival was lots of FUN and it inspired people to create some amazing sensory resources, hear new ideas and discover practical strategies, which could be used straight away.


Participants were invited to join the ‘Sensory Invention Test’ and share their creations with the Sensory Festival Online Community!  We asked, ‘How will you use your invention with your child or with your class?’ and festival goers responded by sharing their pictures and ideas.  Ideas included the best ever ‘desert island’ sensory resource, the sensory item they could not have done without in Lockdown and their best sensory make ever.

There were also opportunities to question the presenters about the issues raised in the day’s video presentations.


We offered two ‘live’ sessions which were:

Carol Allen and Richard Hirstwood: Extend your sensory learning to your outdoor space

Learning takes place in all school environments – not just the classroom! Richard and Carol discussed how to create sensory learning opportunities in all areas of school.


Carol Allen and Richard Hirstwood – Ten top sensory ideas

Lockdown has taught us to be more resourceful in creating sensory resources.  Richard and Carol discussed their top ten ‘sensory on a shoestring’ ideas.


The Sensory Festival continued online after the weekend until 17 July with a series of video presentations.

Presentations included:


Barry Carpenter CBE: ‘The Recovery Curriculum’

Les Staves: ‘The Sensory Roots of Learning’ & ‘The Tools of Learning’

Jo Grace: ‘Sensory Engagement for Mental Wellbeing’

Nick Sheffield: ‘The Engagement Model in the Classroom’

Nick Sheffield: ‘Empowering Parents: home-schooling’

Becky Lyddon:  ‘Understanding needs and behaviours of students with Sensory Processing Difficulties’

Andy Pidcock: ‘Using the power and drama of music in SEND.’ 

Pete Wells: ‘Gobbin Hood and His Merry Phlegm!’ – Deconstructing a Disgusting Sensory Story

Pete Wells: Q & A’s with Richard Hirstwood about Sensory Stories

Jen Steptoe: ‘Creating a busy board – and why you need one!’

Chris Barson:  Q & A’s Autism – Past, Present and Future

Clive Smith: ‘Sensory Approaches for Challenging Behaviour’ – a series of presentations

Richard Hirstwood: ‘Stripped Back Sensory’

Jeanette Scull: ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’

Mike Ayres: It’s a tactile world!’

Russell Smith:  ‘AAC Apps for iPads.’

Katie Fielding: ‘A Personalised Curriculum – The Kingsbury Way’. 

Katie Fielding: ‘Our Rainbow Experience – supporting our Kingsbury family in their recovery journey.’ 

Leigh Blakeman: ‘Zoom home learning lessons using Sensory Stories/books without words’

Bev Cockbill: ‘Happiness Boxes & self-regulation’

Simply Sensory: ‘The Stages of Play’ ‘Messy Play’ and ‘Calming Activities’ and ‘Ultra Violet Light Play’


Our themes for The Sensory Festival were:


Mental Health and Wellbeing

Implementation of the Engagement Model and The Rochford Review


Creating sensory resources

Autism & difficult behaviour

Transitions and going back to school

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