Chairs Blog (September 2017)

Dear Members,

First of all welcome back to the new term. I trust you all managed to get some kind of respite over the summer months and that the return to ‘the fold’  has not been too challenging. It is at these pivotal times in the year that we can often make full use of our peer support network, so please, if you have any issues in hand pick up the phone and call a neighbour, Regional Representative or indeed feel free to contact me directly. I myself have already spoken to and met with some colleagues to help me iron out some return to base issues, to those who have helped me – thank you.

During the conference last year I spent some time with colleagues from our international associate  member school Te Ara in New Zealand.  It became apparent that the current direction of travel in the SEN sector in NZ was considering a move away from specialist provision and into unit based provision as part of the mainstream sector. I am sure we can all agree that DP units are valuable resources that help to reintegrate pupils and promote inclusion, however, it seems sensible to retain a specialist sector for those pupils who have experienced significant trauma, loss or abuse?

Jonathan Cobb, Head Teacher of Te Ara had made the journey a second time to our national conference this year and in conversation we agreed that perhaps a conference in NZ utilising the model we use so successfully and supported by the engage in their future National Committee may entice some of the decision makers to the event and we just might be able to help them review what direction is best practice for NZ. This was a large dream in July, a dream I did not want to lose sight of. Over the month of August, Jonathan and I agreed to try and work together to set up this conference and with the help of a sub-committee, Steve Cliffen (Trustee), Lynn Richards (Co-Opted Member) and Georgina Mutton (you all know Georgina surely 🙂 ?) we successfully helped Jonathan secure a programme of quality for the conference in NZ in April 2018.

Due to the immediacy of the issues at hand, we had to act quickly. Nevertheless a fully open and honest approach to selecting the participants for the conference was undertaken and we have successfully identified a party of 7 to travel to NZ over Easter in April. Funding for our participation is being provided by Te Ara school but this funding will only cover the cost of return economy flights to NZ. The party going will be:

Bernard Allen
Sharon Gray
Neil Toplass
Steve Cliffen
Jon Lees
John D’abbro
and Myself

All the above provided an outline of what they could offer to help Jonathan, Te Ara and other NZ specialist provisions achieve the desired outcome of supporting unity and sharing good practice. Jonathan and his team made a selection based on these outlines. I am confident that given the selection Jonathan has made we are not only going to provide exceptional quality, which will support our good reputation, we will also be providing an overview of what engage in their future has achieved in the UK so we might support  the development of  a similar network in New Zealand … engage in their future NZ maybe?

There is more than one goal here. First and foremost we are supporting a member to enable them to spearhead an opportunity to review the direction of specialist SEMH support in NZ. Secondly, we are going to support the development of a strong network of specialists so that young people who experience SEMH in NZ attain better outcomes. Finally, we are developing links for members in the UK with the hope that we can convince some of our members from  outside the National Committee to volunteer to attend future events in NZ and in other countries.

I will keep you informed about the conference and send out a copy of the programme flyer once it has been finalised.  I hope you can see the potential there is for us all to benefit from reaching out and supporting our international colleagues.

Thank you … and remember to pick up that phone .. you are not alone and someone very likely has experience of what you are faced with right now!


Chair, engage in their future