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About Paediatric Disability Distance Learning

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Paediatric disability distance learning logo  British Academy of Childhood Disability


The Diploma was conceived by Professor Sir David Hall in the 1990s to improve the training of doctors supporting disabled children and young people and their families. The initial work on the Diploma was by Prof. Hall, Dr Val Harpin and Dr Helena Davies. Various specialists have contributed material since. Many others have contributed during discussions or made material and resources available. We are particularly grateful to many of the staff at Ryegate Children’s Centre, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, UK.

In the summer of 1999 a management group was set up, chaired by Dr Val Harpin, (Neurodevelopmental Paediatrician in Sheffield). It included Professor Sir David Hall, Dr Helena Davies (Medical Education Adviser), Dr Sue Gentle (Neurodevelopmental Paediatrician), Dr Dilip Nathan (Community Paediatrician in Nottingham) and Dr Connie Pullan (main co-ordinator of the material at that time), Dr Karen Horridge soon joined the team and is now Editor in Chief.

The first cohort was enrolled in 2000 and now over 400 students have studied the course. The Diploma course became a Postgraduate Diploma in 2004 as part of a collaborative partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. In 2010 it became a Master’s degree (MSc).

In 2017, we decided to make the Diploma course more flexible and to offer standalone courses for allied health professionals and non-medical practitioners supporting disabled children and young people. We concluded the best way to do this was for Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust to end the partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and instead to work with the British Academy of Childhood Disability (BACD) who now endorse the Diploma.

Course directors

Dr Neil Harrower
Dr Harrower is Profile picture of Dr Neil HarrowerDirector of the Course and has worked as a Consultant in Paediatric Neurodisability at the Ryegate Centre, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust since 2008. 

His clinical interests are in complex disability, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and genetics. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of the British Academy of Childhood Disability, the British Paediatric Neurology Association and the Down’s Syndrome Medical Interest Group. Dr Harrower was a student on the PDDLC and completed the course in 2010.

Dr Karen Horridge
Paediatrician (Disability and Development) Profile photograph for Dr Karen Horridgewith almost 40 years of NHS clinical experience. Drf Horridge retired from clinical practice in December 2022.

Current appointments:

  • Visiting Professor of Childhood Disability and Development at the University of Sunderland.
  • Director, Paediatric Disability Distance Learning Courses, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
  • Trustee and Director, Mac Keith Press.
  • Associate Editor, Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.
  • Lead for Paediatric Terminologies (SNOMED-CT), Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
  • Clinical lead, Disability Matters and Learning Disability Matters for Families.

Previous appointments:

  • Chair, British Academy of Childhood Disability
  • Informatics for Quality Committee and Paediatric Neurodisability Specialty Training Committee, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, UK.
Dr Rachael Hughes
Dr Rachael Hughesprofile photograph of Dr Rachael Hughes is Director of the course, and is a former student, completing it herself in 2013. She currently works as a Consultant Paediatrician in Neurodisability in Sheffield, with interests in teaching, transition and neurodiversity. Dr Hughes is a former leadership fellow, with a CCT in Community Child Health. She is a member of both the British Academy of Childhood Disability and British Association of Community Child Health.

Support Team

  • Sarah Butler – Course Manager
  • Mary Colclough – Course Manager
  • Terri Powell – Course Support Coordinator

The team can be contacted on

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