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CEO’s Blog – 24th March 2023

CEO's Blog - 24th March 2023 Our Organisation... The weeks are flying by and we're nearly at the end of the Spring term, so here's a snapshot of life at every one of our schools and settings. We're growing all the time, but our offer remains the best in special...

CEO’s Blog – 17th March 2023 – ‘Thank You!’

CEO's Blog - 17th March 2023  'Thank You!'   Well, if you've been following the updates on social media this week, you might just have noticed that almost 100 of our young people have been lucky enough to travel to Disneyland Paris. A trip that started on Monday...

CEO’s Blog (10th March 2023)

CEO's Blog (10th March 2023)   It was International Women's Day this week, and it was great to see our schools and settings marking the occasion with their activities and learning opportunities. Of course, we shouldn't only celebrate our women and girls for just...

We are looking for our next CEO…

We are looking for our next CEO... It's probably been the worst kept secret for a while, but I'm writing my blog this week to let everyone know that we are actively looking for the next CEO of the New Bridge Multi Academy Group and MAT. After many years working as...

CEO’s Blog – Student Voice (24th February 2023)

CEO's Blog - Student Voice (24th February 2023)   A few weeks ago, before the half term break, I said I would be reporting on how we listen to the Student Voice across our MAT and wider Group. Well, this week, I'm able to do just that, as some of our schools and...

After the events of the previous week, the last few days have seemed positively calm! In this week’s blog I’d like to discuss a number of policy related issues.

I spent the end of the week in London, at the Department for Education.

Our topics of discussion ranged from building new schools to developing provision within mainstream for children with additional needs.

It is interesting to note that in the last 10 years, the majority of children with EHCPs are now educated in special provisions and special schools. The number 10 years ago was 30% – now it is over 50%. The consequence of this is that special schools all over the country are facing a crisis in relation to space and capacity. We know that this is the case in Oldham and Tameside. The system cannot keep sending increasing numbers of children into our schools – we don’t have enough space!!

Without getting into a huge discussion about the merits (or not) of inclusion within mainstream schools, there appears an absolute imperative that we find solutions to reverse these figures. If we are not careful, we are heading into a perfect storm. More EHCPs being produced with no capacity within the special school system will lead to poorer quality schools. This has the potential to dilute our effectiveness.

The very best mainstream schools celebrate diversity and, as a result, standards for all children are very high. Unfortunately, many other schools have a very narrow view of ‘diversity’ and seek ways to move children on at the first opportunity. All of this is set against a backdrop of changes to the curriculum and the introduction of Progress 8, a change in the way exams are assessed and a change in how schools are inspected.

My discussions with officials and ministers explored how we can begin to ‘incentivise’ mainstream schools to avoid our children, at times, being marginalised and ‘pushed out’.

I struggle to believe the solution is merely financial, i.e. give schools more financial incentives to support children with EHCPs. I do, however, wish there was a way that we could ringfence money for those children that need it the most. I hold a fundamental belief that money should always follow need.

The way forward will, almost certainly, involve training and support. For too long some special schools have operated in a ‘bubble’. We need to be proactive in enabling mainstream schools, in developing colleagues’ understanding and knowledge, and in training them through high quality professional development. We should be in a position to influence curriculum design and differentiation.

I am coming to the conclusion, however, that the main driver for change needs to come via the inspection system. Ofsted inspections can be a significant driver for change. School leaders across the country have to respond to the Ofsted framework. I see this in many ways as being positive. If you look at the present framework and its emphasis on British values, behaviour and diversity – it has helped shape behaviour. School leaders have to pay regard to the framework. Let’s explore how we can place young people with additional needs at the heart of a new framework. Schools that are already doing this successfully will rightly be celebrated – the ones that have poorer records of working with youngsters with additional needs will be forced to change.

It’s the ideal time to work with the department and Ofsted as they are presently consulting on a revised framework. We owe to it all our children to get this sorted.

Have a good week,


You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here


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