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Welcome back everyone. I hope you all managed to have some sort of break at half term.

We’re now halfway through the school year and we are all moving forward at quite a pace.

As you know, we had a training and development day on Monday. A highlight for me was to listening to Professor Barry Carpenter. Barry and I go back over 20 years and I often attribute many of our developments and initiatives to Barry.

What Barry is able to do incredibly skilfully is see the “bigger picture” before it actually exists. For example, 12 years ago, Barry was one of the first leading academics to explore how many young people with additional needs were moving into the workplace. On the back of his research, and the alarming picture it gave us, we developed our Bridging the Gap strategy. As you One of this week’s highlights know, our employment strategy continues to go from strength to strength. On a similar theme, Barry has previously highlighted many other serious gaps within our system: girls with autism, assessment for young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, the offer for children with foetal alcohol syndrome, the impact to the education sector of babies being born between 22 and 24 weeks – the list goes on and on. On Monday he highlighted the need for positive mental health, not just for the young people but also for the staff team.

I believe it is so important that our schools and organisations are appraised of the very latest research and trends. It allows us to (more effectively) forward plan. One overriding message that came through the session on Monday was the need to move the specialist sector nearer to the mainstream. We often talk about the “continuum of provision”. For me, and many of my colleagues, we need to move away from this being an abstract concept into something that the young people, their families and key stakeholders more clearly understand.

It means, simply, putting the child and young person at the centre of an extended offer. It is the responsibility of the “system” to ensure our children are prepared for the next stage of their lives. I believe this involves us “teaching” a much wider range of skills than just the “traditional” curriculum. It involves teaching children resilience, ensuring they are physically and mentally well, developing their communication skills, celebrating their personal qualities and maintaining positive behaviour. Link all this with a bit of fun and laughter and we won’t be far off. I’d like to argue that it’s what all parents want for their own children – it’s certainly what I want for mine.

Oh, and finally, for the children and young people to be around staff that actually like them!! Staff who build relationships with them and who are able to engage with them at a level where the child or young person feels valued. Our staff teams, in all our organisations, come from a starting point of wanting to be here and wanting to make a difference. Unfortunately, I go into too many places where the same can’t be said.

It’s our ambition to continue to strive for a more joined up system that sees the value in every individual. We know we won’t do it alone – we will need the support of a range of stakeholders across all our communities. See, Barry’s at it again!

Have a great weekend,


You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here


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