Down Syndrome charity’s delight over funding success

L-R, Jeffrey Gillyon (Provincial Grandmaster)
Gillian Bowlas (Downright Special Charity Manager)
Katie Bewell (Downright Special Specialist Teacher)
Bill Hartley (Local Freemason)

A charity which supports children with Down Syndrome and their families in Hull and the East Riding has been awarded thousands of pounds to help towards the salary costs of its specialist teacher.

In addition to providing specialist teaching sessions at its Friday groups, Downright Special employs an Early Years Advisor, a Key Stage 1 specialist teacher and a Key Stage 2 advisory teacher who offer outreach work, individual advice and training opportunities for education staff.

They go into about 45 schools, pre-schools and nurseries across Hull and the East Riding to support teachers and teaching assistants who work with children who have Down Syndrome.

Regular social events and activities are organised for the children and their families, ensuring they feel safe and included in a suitable environment.

The Bransholme-based charity does not receive any funding from statutory organisations and relies heavily on support from the local community, as well as charitable grants.

Now, Downright Special has been awarded £10,000 from the Masonic Province of Yorkshire North and East Ridings and the Masonic Charitable Foundation to help towards the cost of its Friday sessions, where its specialist teacher works with school age children, delivering focussed speech, language and communication intervention covering a range of topics such as sounds, money, counting and reading, using visual aids and other tools such as Numicon. 

Gillian Bowlas, Downright Special Charity Manager, said: “The education support we provide is absolutely vital to ensure good educational outcomes for our children. 

“There is no other specialist teaching service for Down Syndrome in our area. Delivering the most up to date educational interventions for our children ensures they can achieve the best start to their learning journey.

“We know that people with Down Syndrome have a very specific way of learning and having a specialist teacher who can demonstrate those specialist techniques, as well as provide support for families and teachers, is absolutely essential.

“We will receive £5,000 per year for two years thanks to this grant. We are so grateful to the Masonic Province of Yorkshire North and East Ridings for ensuring that this service can continue to operate and grow to meet the needs of our children and families.”

The charity said the grant will help strengthen the organisation, as the cost of the specialist teacher is a significant part of the charity’s small budget and it will enable the team to spend more money on developing other interventions, as well as acquiring additional resources to help provide a greater range of support.

The teacher will also be able to work more hours and spend time outside of the Friday afternoon sessions, planning and preparing, as well as focussing on developing new tools to assess and measure children’s progress, so the charity continues to be responsive to their development needs. Jeffrey Gillyon, Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire North and East Freemasons, said: “I am very pleased we have been able to assist this very worthwhile charity and support them in the fantastic work they do for both the children and their families.

“The grant from Yorkshire North and East Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.”

Part of Downright Special’s mission is to act as a voice for the children and families it supports, aiming to change perceptions and raise awareness of what it means to have Down Syndrome.

The charity has close contact with the screening service at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, so it can provide antenatal support when parents need first-hand advice, and new parent packs are on the maternity and neonatal wards ready to be distributed.

It also works closely with local speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, teachers of the deaf and health visitors. They attend the charity’s play and learn sessions to work with parents and children, and parents or relatives can ask questions or have their babies weighed.

All of the money raised for Downright Special is spent in Hull and the East Riding and it makes best use of its volunteers who provide 1,600 hours per year, as well as its six part-time paid members of staff.

Website: Downright Special

[Katy Wood – Downright Special]