29 Jan

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Graham Hi all, it’s been a very different week for me. I’ve spent the majority of it in various parts of the country explaining about the work of our Group to a range of individuals, agencies, associations and schools.

On Tuesday I was asked to sit on an ‘expert panel’ at the national Special School Summit in London organised by The Key and Challenge Partners. It was interesting to get a perspective from the Department for Education, especially around the funding reforms. Certainly our Group’s financial position is constantly under review and, as even more services are expected from schools, we face further challenges. One of the advantages of being a large organisation is that we have a degree of flexibility to move finances around as the need arises. It was interesting to note that many heads of smaller schools who attended the conference were struggling to make ends meet. The extra demands of managing the EHCP process, dispensing medication safely, supporting families and making sense of the myriad of curriculum and assessment changes appear to be taking their toll on these smaller schools.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with the Department for Education at Sanctuary Buildings with respect to post 19 provision, supported internships and employment. Only 6% of young people with learning disabilities are in employment across the country. This a truly shocking figure and one that collectively we need to improve. The department was very interested to hear about our ‘Bridging the Gap’ model and our ‘Future Finders’ scheme. They, like us, believe that supported internship holds the key to making a difference. There are, however, so many complex and overlapping agendas, many of them linked to the current benefits system, that will need to be further examined. We will continue to work with the government on this.

On to Thursday, and I gave a presentation in Torquay to the South West Special School Leaders Conference. Again, I offered an insight into our work and celebrated the successes of our young people.

Closer to home,  I was delighted with our Head Boy’s very first blog earlier this week (click here if you missed it). It was brilliant to read Matthew advocating for other young people. I think we need to ensure minutes of our student councils regularly appear on the websites so you can see how the children and young people help shape our Group’s developments.

We have received wonderful news regarding Medtia Square, our new base in the centre of Oldham. The contracts have now been exchanged and an action plan is underway to ensure the building is fit for purpose. Heads of Centres will be writing to the young people affected by the move in the next few days to invite them and their families to one of our open events next month. I hope you will be able to come along to see the latest addition to the New Bridge Group – we would love to hear your ideas.

On a final note, I’m disappointed to say the football last week was pretty poor fayre (from both teams). It was great to see Oldham bounce back with a win midweek. I really do hope they can get out of the relegation places.

I’m back in Oldham next week, have a great weekend,

Graham