Hazel Lawson

Hazel Lawson

One of Hazel Lawson’s proudest moments was winning a prestigious education prize awarded to her for a research paper on literacy practices for children with severe learning difficulties.

The United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA), an organisation whose sole objective is the advancement of education in literacy, selected Hazel Lawson and her four co-authors as winners of the UKLA/Wiley-Blackwell Research in Literacy Education Award 2013.

Hazel is a senior lecturer at the University’s Graduate School of Education, she said: “Children with severe learning difficulties (SLD) need to be seen as participants in a literate community; the modern world has many new literacies and some of these are accessible without being able to read and write in the traditional sense. More inclusive concepts of literacy would extend ideas of literacy to consider ‘texts’ beyond books and print, such as websites, films, pictures, photographs and symbols and activities beyond reading and writing, such as drama, film making and storytelling.”

She added: “I am so pleased that this research has been recognised, as it is rare that the issue of literacy with children with severe learning difficulties is discussed.”

Prior to becoming an academic, Hazel worked as a school teacher for many years with students who had severe learning difficulties; she remembers many occasions during this time when her students did something remarkable – for example, a young man catching the bus on his own for the first time, and an amazing production of the musical Grease. These experiences and others like them have proved an invaluable resource for her second career in higher education.

Hazel cites Judy Sebba, her PhD supervisor, as one of her inspirations saying: “Judy was always open and transparent; she was open about the extent of her knowledge and open to continuing her own learning. I loved her style and her approach. She is probably responsible for me doing what I do now!”

Other memorable career highlights include the fact that she gained her PhD when she was eight months pregnant and was offered her current job at the University on her 50th birthday.

She has two boys who are now 17 and 21 and lives in Exmouth where she says “watching the sea in whatever state – calm or wild – never fails to cheer me up and puts life into perspective.”