Thank you very much for inviting me to this excellent event. I was very pleased when Anita [Kerwin-Nye, London Leadership Strategy Managing Director] invited me, rather more daunted when I was sent the delegate list and saw that the room was to have the very expert group I can now see.
This is a great example of what the Government calls the school-led system, with those who are most effective at improving schools having a wider role across the system.
As a teacher in my early days, I went from days when I felt completely on top of the work, and other days when I struggled to know how it was I was going to get the children to learn successfully what I was trying to get across, and some days I just got stuck with some children. I learnt that there were colleagues who had techniques and strategies that reached children in ways I hadn’t yet learned. As a Head, I knew what it was to have responsibility for every child in the school, and the need to help teachers acquire the specific skills to ensure they understood how to work with children with specific needs.
In more recent times, as I have had the privilege of visiting and seeing some great schools, I have seen the great value of great care alongside technical expertise giving opportunities to children unavailable elsewhere.
LLS is such a renowned organisation. We all know that you can’t have a great school without a very good leader. To bring great leadership to the SEND field is a great development. For those of us who work outside as well as inside London, it’s very heartening to see LLS working well outside London – the really well-thought of work in Norfolk is what I have got to see.
I work across the most interesting region in the country – East Anglia and East London boroughs, an area with some great schools, very diverse schools and the most lovely part of the country. An area though where in many places gaps are too wide, gaps in achievement for the disadvantaged and those with SEND.
We have four children. As they went to secondary school we tried to choose carefully for each of them. For our third child, my wife and I decided to focus completely on which school we thought had the best SENCO and worry less about other aspects of schools’ reputations. It proved a good decision, as we chose a school whose SENCO did a great job, kept in very close contact with us and kept him in school.
What a great privilege for us all to be at such an important event, to celebrate already more than 5000 schools having made use of the Review Guide. There is lots of discussion about schools for very able pupils, pupils from different backgrounds. For children who are the most vulnerable, schools matter the most of any group of children, in terms of the potential of making a difference to what they can achieve, now and in life.
The aims of the SEND Guide are that children and young people with SEND are:
- visible in their school
- supported in their learning
- included in decisions about the teaching they receive
I look around and I see people with the expertise who know how to do this and have contributed to progress in so many schools in these areas, for me of particular note in the third area, an area that many would previously have found hard.
Not many people know what Regional Schools Commissioners do, certainly not the wider public. The members of the wider public that I hear from are parents who are desperate and are looking for someone to listen and I’m one of those they have managed to find amongst whom they hope someone will help. For all the great work being done, there is more to do to get equity for those who most need our help to see this achieved.
My work is with academy trusts so I was particularly pleased to see that this programme has reached several trusts as mechanisms to spread effective practices.
Thank you to all who have contributed to this great programme and best wishes as you see it spread yet further.