This year’s Special Schools, Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference – entitled ‘Creating Stability in Changing Times’ - has been reformatted to include a one day conference on 10 March, with an optional panel debate and dinner the night before. During the evening networking event, delegates can hear from SEND experts and put forward their questions for what is expected to be a lively panel debate. Always thought-provoking and passionate about SEND issues, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, will be the after dinner speaker, setting the scene for a busy day of conference to follow.
What to expect
The conference opens with Will Ord’s keynote speech. As a highly-regarded educational consultant Will helps schools to develop growth mind sets, thinking and communication skills, and mindfulness in both primary and secondary schools. Will says he’s expecting this event to “celebrate the wonderful and challenging work of SENCOs and teachers, and support their future developments”. His hope is that delegates listening to his presentation will begin to think about “effective school evolution”.
“By this I mean there are ways in which schools can effectively and humanely evolve themselves to better support growth mindsets,” says Will. “If there is buy-in from the school leadership team and a shared focus across the school, children can be encouraged to perceive themselves as improvable and changeable, to see things as possible and to have really positive attitudes to learning.”
Research has shown that if children have a fixed mindset – and perceive themselves as having a fixed capacity to learn - it can create a false ceiling on their potential. Instilling a culture of Growth Mindsets brings a “buffet of possibilities” to the classroom, says Will, with children starting to think more widely about what they can be good at, developing their resilience and independence.
Another speaker on the day, renowned SEND expert Dr Rona Tutt OBE, is perfectly positioned to provide delegates with a comprehensive update on what’s been happening in the world of education and the effect this is having on children and young people with SEND.
“I’ll be tracing the major upheavals that have occurred since this conference took place a year ago, in the belief that being aware of the context in which we all work can help to counteract a sense of instability,” she says. “I will consider how far the SEND Reforms have been an improvement on the previous SEN system, in terms of their impact on the lives of young learners, their families and on those who educate them, whether this be in a mainstream or specialist setting.”
As well as the various structural changes that have taken place, Rona will explore the extent and nature of the changing population of pupils that schools and settings of all types are experiencing, “with particular reference to developments in the field of mental health and SEND; the place of girls on the autism spectrum; and the growing number of children being identified with co-existing conditions”.
And Rona plans to round off the session by using this information to build a vision of what we might expect the future to look like. “This will be a mixture of following trends in order to make some informed guesses, and also adding my own ideas about what I think the future should hold for some of the most vulnerable children in our schools and other educational settings.”
She adds: “My aim is for the presentation to have light and shade, which will include touches of humour and moments of solemnity. It will end with words of encouragement for those who have chosen to work with children and young people who struggle at school, so that they have a better chance of experiencing a more fulfilling future.”
Specially commissioned seminars
During the day, delegates have the chance to attend three of eight specially commissioned seminars. These are designed to inspire, stimulate and empower those working with pupils with SEND and to share current educational thinking and good practice.
A seminar that is bound to attract a lot of attention is the one by Lesley Cox HMI, who is National Lead for Disability and Special Educational Needs within Ofsted. As her talk comes at a time when Ofsted is under new leadership, those attending will look forward to gaining an inside view into any change of direction and how best to prepare for inspection in relation to expectations of SEND provision.
Gareth Morewood is one of the best known SENCOs in the country, combining his role as Director of Curriculum Support with sharing his ideas more widely. His seminar this year will focus on how SENCOs can be as effective as possible and will include his myth-busting factsheet about current legislation. His session will be important both to SENCOs themselves and to school leaders in general.
Barry Carpenter (pictured above) never fails to inspire his audiences. This year he returns having added a well-deserved CBE to his OBE, given in recognition of his work in the field of SEND. Barry always brings fresh insights from neuroscience into his talks, so that his messages about pedagogy are informed by a growing knowledge of how the brain functions and how children learn.
Despite the pressures of working as Principal Judge (SEN) on the First Tier Tribunal, Jane McConnell returns to give those who attend an opportunity to understand the workings of the Tribunal from the other side of the bench. Whether school leaders have been involved in Tribunal cases already; have one coming up soon; or want to know more for the future, there can be no better person to give an up to date picture of the Tribunal’s work.
Who should attend?
This conference is ideal for school leaders, school business managers, children’s centre leaders and SENCos from all schools – whether you are an academy, special, mainstream, residential, PRU or alternative provision in early years, primary or secondary.
The Special Schools, Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference takes place on Friday 10 March 2017 (with optional panel and dinner on the evening on Thursday 9 March) - The Birmingham Conference and Events Centre
Page Published: 10/02/2017