Face-to-face and virtual INSET and coaching

Hirstwood Training offers in-house and virtual training to support schools in creating and delivering a consistent and cohesive strategy for multi-sensory learning approaches for all pupils.


It has always been our priority to make sure our learners get the highest quality education by providing educators with a combination of practical theory, effective pedagogy and resource ideas.  We have a long-standing reputation for inspiring and enthusing staff in all things sensory!


We deliver training through a mixture of face-to-face and virtual presentations and personalised coaching, all supported by bespoke self-guided online learning.


Our hybrid training model means that we can offer ongoing support that is cost-effective, targeted, and creates a difference in daily classroom practice. Training is interactive, thought-provoking and fun, with learning outcomes which challenge thinking and support change in practice in your school. We believe this model allows you to pick the elements of a CPD structure that works best to meet your needs.


Covid lockdown enabled us to fine-tune elements of blended learning, evidenced by five successful online Sensory Festivals attended by delegates from the UK, USA, Singapore, Middle East, Scandinavia, France, Australia and New Zealand!


Our growing team are experienced and enthusiastic. We work together because we love what we do and want your team to love what they do.


Sessions can be twilight, half day, full day or a combination to suit your CPD needs.


We offer a ‘mix and match’ approach for our blended learning, which can be a combination of:


Bespoke INSET/training


Recently, this has included:


  • Bespoke virtual INSET – highly individualised to meet your CPD needs. We deliver an agreed agenda; please see below for suggested topics/agendas.
  • Upskilling ECTs to deliver a sensory curriculum and broaden their understanding of sensory issues experienced by pupils
  • Planning and delivering sensory targets on a School Improvement Plan, including creating new sensory spaces, effective use of sensory equipment and re-envisaging outdoor sensory spaces
  • Personalised coaching to upskill and empower teachers/teaching assistants to lead on sensory provision across a school
  • Development of a sensory outreach service
  • Developing/creating a range of school-wide accessible activities with a sensory focus for a specific curriculum area


Live & online courses


Hirstwood Training also offers a wide range of virtual courses, including half-day and full-day seminars and online conferences. These more topic-specific events can further support bespoke training/INSET to ensure the optimum impact for staff and pupils.


Ongoing support


We offer a new option designed to support your needs more precisely, delivered over an agreed period, allowing for structured and sustained development.  We deliver our ongoing support through a mixture of virtual and face-to-face training, online learning, bespoke coaching and live & online events.

Based on an initial discussion to identify aims and structure, your staff can be supported and mentored with clear input that works to enhance their skills and knowledge whilst at a strategic level, moves your school forward and enhances opportunities for your learners.

Working with schools on this basis, we have found:

  • Various training techniques combined with a mentoring system offer a different and rewarding CPD experience
  • Clear evidence of impact on an agreed aim/objectives
  • Engagement and development of staff are enhanced
  • Flexibility allows for accommodation of unexpected changes


Self-guided online learning bundles

Our online learning courses are written primarily for special schools, nurseries or colleges; and mainstream schools with specialist provision. They are suitable for teachers, therapists and learning support staff  and cover a wide range of topics most appropriate for learners with moderate to complex learning needs, sensory impairment and autism.

Mix and match the sessions below to give you an idea of your personalised agenda
Just click on the words to see the content (in no particular order).

How to create a sensory classroom

Every classroom is a multisensory room. Let us help you to make your classroom a great environment for successful learning.

Each year, you need to adapt your classroom environment to match the sensory abilities of your new pupils.

How do we make sure that pupils can take part in the sensory learning opportunities on offer? How does the environment support this engagement and interaction?

We can show you a range of ideas and strategies for developing sensory spaces; from large classrooms to the smallest sensory corners!

Clonker or resonance boards

Communication is key to most educational objectives, but a huge challenge for many individuals with autism, PMLD and sensory and physical impairments. Naomi has a plethora of dynamic, but simple, ideas to share to using music, sound and vibration to develop engagement. From Lycra loops, curriculum links, beads, stories and much more, you’ll have a greater range of ideas at your fingertips to integrate your resonance board into everyday learning and classroom activities.

Introducing an Environmental Audit

In your setting, the influence of the environment can have a huge impact on successful learning.

For a learner with autism, or a learner with severe or complex learning needs; this impact can be very different.

In this session, we introduce you to an Environmental Audit. Completing this will tell you how ‘autism or sensory impairment friendly’ your learning space is. We then share simple adaptations to support learners to make more ‘sense’ of their learning environment.

Creating portable sensory spaces

Every room can be a sensory room, but how you modify an environment to ensure that individuals are able to fully participate in the sensory experiences we offer?

Sometimes you just need a small, portable or temporary sensory space. This could be a corner of a classroom, a bedroom or any other place. But what should you use to make your environment? What sensory resources does it need in it?

We will share a plethora of ideas and strategies for developing sensory spaces – from large scale environments to the smallest sensory spaces!

Sensory Stories

A sensory story is a vehicle used to deliver many outcomes. Relaxation; specific learning targets; interaction; sharing with others; communication…the list can be endless!

But there is much more to sensory stories than picking up a book and reading it from front to back!

To engage our learners it needs to be multisensory, but how multisensory does it need to be?

In this fun and engaging session, we look at the importance of:
how a sensory story supports learning
‘bite-size’ stories and how to choose them
why repetition is your friend
how to use digital/mobile technology to enhance the interactivity of a story
choosing multisensory stimuli for your story

At the end of this session, you will be confident to create your own multisensory story full of engaging sensory learning opportunities!

iPads in SEN

We have a huge armoury of ‘tried and tested’ sensory apps and online training resources to share with you on how to use iPad apps for sensory learning, visual stimulation, hearing loss, interaction, communication development, curriculum links, and sensory stories – without downloading a thousand apps!

Working with sensory loss

This is a powerful and thought-provoking session. We enable you to experience your school and learning environments as your multisensory impaired learners do.

We simulate different tactile, visual and hearing impairments. Then working in pairs, with one enabler and one experiencer; you explore and move around the school environment.

Is it easy to find your way around? Do you feel disorientated or lost? What sensory clues are available in the environment for you?

This session will enable you to understand:
why some learners react unexpectedly in different environments
why learners are more successful in some environments than others
how to change your environment to support your learner’s sensory abilities
how clutter in the learning environment can be confusing

This session would combine well with ‘Introducing an Environmental Audit.’

Sensory Communication

Communication is one of the most important skills we want our learners to develop. How do we support our learners to develop these crucial skills?

In this session, we experience the same successes; frustrations and communication breakdowns as our learners do. We experience the need to use many different ways to communicate, and why a more sensory approach to communication is often required.

Understanding a learners communication frustrations will make you a more effective and receptive communication partner.

Sensory for pre-formal and semi-formal learners

We begin by outlining the principles of multisensory learning. We’ll look at the importance of a sensory curriculum – and what this means in everyday practice. We will look at why our learners need sensory stimulation and this interactive session will show you how learners can engage through fun, appropriate and regulated sensory stimulation. We will finish by looking at our understanding of how the brain works – and how this knowledge is changing and reinforcing our sensory approaches to learning.

Learn how to create sensory spaces for learners with autism

How should sensory spaces be different for learners with autism? We offer a range of ideas and strategies to create sensory spaces that are safe and effective for learners with autism. These positive spaces build upon learning strengths to develop attention, interaction and communication. We look at how to use these spaces for sensory ‘seekers’ and sensory ‘avoiders.’

Using a sensory profile for a learner enables us to identify the best sensory strategies for their successful learning.

This session links well with ‘Identifying learners sensory strengths.’

How to use your sensory room effectively

We’ve been working in multisensory rooms since they first appeared! ‘The practical guide to multisensory rooms’ (Hirstwood & Gray 1995) is still one of the few texts to focus on the use and development of multisensory rooms.

This session will make clear what a multisensory room is, and the potential this space has.

We look at each piece of multisensory equipment as a tool and describe how to use it and what you can achieve with it.

We share many ideas on how to use your multisensory room with different learners to maximise the impact of this space.

After this session, you will understand how to use your multisensory room to create clear, engaging and appropriate multisensory learning opportunities for all your learners.

Sensory on a shoestring

Sensory on a shoestring tools complement your sensory approach to learning. These shoestring tools can be powerful motivators, attention-getters and story-makers and more!

And sensory tools don’t have to be expensive!

There are many things from pound shops and, of course, suppliers like Ikea/Tiger/Maplin, which can create engaging sensory sessions.

Remember! Matching sensory needs with cheap and cheerful tools means you will discover an easy way of engaging sensory learners further in their learning.

How you can understand over and under stimulation

We know that some learners are over-stimulated, and some need extra stimulation; to keep them engaged in learning.

We help you to understand that under and over stimulation applies to all the sensory modalities. These are vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, vestibular & proprioception.

This session will increase your team’s awareness of sensory loss; its impact on communication and learning; and why we need to give more modulated sensory clues for our learners.

Finding the learners sensory strengths

Let us show you what a learner’s sensory strengths are and how to create sensory activities they will want to engage with. Engaged learners are successful learners!

Understand a learner’s sensory challenges and you identify their barriers to learning.

By identifying a learner’s sensory strengths and challenges you can offer more appropriate, relevant and engaging sensory learning opportunities.

Why sensory stimulation?

What is sensory stimulation? Which learners need sensory stimulation? This session considers the basics of sensory stimulation and it’s importance for all learners with SEND.

We look at the sensory modalities and why they are important in learning for all learners. These are vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, vestibular & proprioception.

Each of our senses reinforce each other, giving us more detailed information together than we would receive from one sense. This enables us to understand and interact in and with our environment. For learners with SEND, this is the beginning of developing sensory regulation.

What is multi sensory learning?

We explore our world by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, moving in it and, sometimes, tasting it.

This is multisensory learning – learning that involves two or more senses in the same activity. This kind of learning is how we all learn as babies, before we become more cognitive learners.

For learners with SEND, multi sensory information is critical to their learning success. This multi sensory information helps a learner to understand and engage in the environment around them.

This is especially important if a learner has a sensory impairment, e.g. a visual impairment and receives less information via this sense.

Multi sensory learning enables the learner with SEND to be more successful in engaging with, understanding and remembering the learning experiences we offer.

Assessment & Target setting

Do you want to simplify the way you set targets? We want to introduce you to a simple, but powerful tool, which will do just that. Our target setting system is based on a well-researched formula, which is flexible too – saving you time, reducing paperwork and giving you an easier, visual way to track progress.

We’ll explore how to break down a goal into achievable targets, ‘scaffolding’ the learner’s emerging skills in a way which will support their learning. We will also share how to build assessment and recording into everyday classroom or learning environment.

Hirstwood Training are always here to answer questions for you, let’s have a chat!