11 Jan


Happy New Year everyone. I really hope that all our young people, their families, our staff teams and numerous friends have another successful year.

It’s been very much business as usual this week. On Monday I managed to get around all our sites to wish everyone best wishes and ensure we had a quick catch up.

On Tuesday morning we held our weekly admissions panel. As you know, different local authorities send applications to our admissions team and each individual school spends considerable time discussing whether we can meet each individual child’s needs. When we introduced this process, a couple of years ago, we often discussed three to four children each week. On Tuesday we had over 40 applications!! The teams barely touched the surface. The reality of dealing with so many requests meant that a significant amount of time at the end of the week was spent working with senior colleagues from our trust and from different local authorities.

I really believe 2019 needs to be the year when we start to establish a different strategy regarding young people with additional needs. Our schools will become too big and lose their individual identity if we let this burgeoning trend (children coming into our existing schools) continue. If our trust does not take a lead in developing an “inclusive continuum of provision” then the pressure our schools face (with regards to numbers) will become intolerable.

As National Leaders of Education, both myself and Moira Thompson (our headteacher coach) have meetings scheduled in the next few days and weeks with local authority colleagues. We need to explore innovations such as:

  • commissioning high quality outreach provision
  • sharing admission arrangements
  • using technology to support virtual teaching and learning
  • developing learning campuses
  • providing improved alternative (extended) vocational offers
  • exploring whether some of our schools need “residential type” provision.

All of these (and many other initiatives) are tentatively labelled as our “heading east” strategy.

I know a few people are concerned that our trust and our schools are becoming too big and are changing their character. I honestly believe that by doing nothing, the risk to our schools would be even more considerable. We have to diversify to ensure our individual identities can be protected. Our personalised offer – ensuring that every single one of our children and young people has the very best chance to progress and succeed – has to be protected. If this means we have to influence schools and organisations outside of our trust, so be it. If it means that we have to grow our trust, so be it. Doing nothing is too much of a risk. We will work with our local partners to generate policy and practice – we will work with our National and International partners to generate momentum.

In next week’s blog I’m hoping to be able to share some exciting news and ideas regarding our Horizons provision.

We may as well start the year as we intend to go on!!

Thank you for all your Christmas gifts and best wishes. I am so looking forward to another amazing year.

Best wishes,


You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here