Rosie Jones and Andrew Self start star-studded week of talks at Woodlands Meed

Comedian Rosie Jones and The Greatest Dancer star Andrew Self kicked off a week of inspirational talks at Woodlands Meed, Burgess Hill, last month.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 4:08 pm

The school’s first virtual careers fair offered a week of interactive experiences (May 24-28) that aimed to celebrate opportunities for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The two TV personalities appeared on screen across classrooms and more talks followed during the week with speakers explaining how they found their careers and how they have handled challenges.

The other speakers were: autistic Britain’s Got Talent comedian Robert White, comedian with Tourette’s syndrome Luke Stevenson, renowned autistic photographer Joe James, and autistic author Chris Bonnello.

Rosie Jones speaks to Woodlands Meed pupils on screen. Picture: Woodlands Meed
Rosie Jones speaks to Woodlands Meed pupils on screen. Picture: Woodlands Meed

“I loved speaking at the virtual careers fair,” said Rosie Jones, adding that it was ‘the most perfect start’ to her week.

“I just hope next time we can do it in person,” she said.

Rosie talked about her career, the comedy circuit and her new children’s book The Amazing Edie Eckhart.

She also spoke about her time at school and revealed that her favourite subject was English because her teacher always told her she could do better.

Andrew Self talks to students. Picture: Woodlands Meed

Rosie’s advice to students was to not be overwhelmed by thinking about the future in its entirety, but to simply focus on each next step forward.

Andrew Self, a dancer and model with Down Syndrome, answered questions about dance and gave an enjoyable live performance, giving the message: “If you enjoy something just go for it.”

Joe James talked about photography and his job as a security guard, telling students: “Don’t let anyone hold you back or tell you your worth.”

Luke Stevenson talked about his acting career and the misconceptions around Tourette’s, while Chris Bonnello, author of the Under Dogs book series, encouraged students to keep their career options open.

Woodlands Meed pupils watch Robert White's talk. Picture: Woodlands Meed

Chris also offered tips on preparing for job interviews and talking about autism in a positive way, advising students to ‘play to their strengths’.

Robert White spoke about his autism diagnosis, and created some short musical numbers live for the pupils.

Sussex employers spoke throughout the week as well, giving pupils a chance to hear about job opportunities and potential career paths.

These businesses were: Albion in the Community, Places for People, Kanwish Designs, Sharpe Cat Printing, Dozy Pheasant Brewing Co, Mother Goose Swim School, Lipstick & Barrel and Nails by Vivienne.

Carl Morgan, a former Woodlands Meed pupil, talked about setting up his own thriving business, Sussex Prestige, despite his struggles with reading and writing.

“We are really excited to offer our students the chance to take part in our first virtual careers fair,” said head teacher Adam Rowland.

“The week has been a fantastic opportunity for us to work collaboratively with local businesses and our SEND advocates to inspire and support our students to think about their future.”

Woodlands Meed is a school and college in Chanctonbury Road, Burgess Hill, that caters for students with a broad range of special needs and disabilities.

Find out more at www.woodlandsmeed.co.uk.