Early Career Framework, Leadership, SEND

SEND Leadership: a new way of working

By Anita Devi

Last week, #TeamADL jointly led a series of SEND Briefings with Tappter, because we believe this is a time for a new way of working.  In recent weeks, we have already started the conversation by talking about:

In addition, we are proposing a way of working that re-connects the sector.  For years, I have listened to people describe the SEND system as ‘fragmented’.  In truth, I have struggled with this level of negativity, not because I don’t’ believe there are things we need to address.  There are many issues we need to address.  My resistance to this comment was due to the dream I have in my heart and the joint up vision; I have in my head.

I envisage a system where there is a co-operative approach to the leadership of special educational needs, disability, and inclusion. Leadership is not just about those in post.  It is about teams and recognising the value each team member brings to the conversation. Parents and carers are very much part of the team, as are children, young people, specialists, teachers and community members.

I envisage a system where identification is both timely and accurate.  Identification has become a tick-box process, much to the detriment of the child and young person.

I envisage a system where resources are available to meet the needs of children and young people, not only in educational settings, but also in the community when they attend social groups or other community settings.  Reasonable adjustments need to become part of the norm.

So how can we connect the dots and make this a reality?

Co-operative Leadership involves mutual input from team members in working towards a common goal.  What is our common goal?  The best life chances for children and young people.  I believe many of us know this, but we possibly differ on how we get there.  It is for this reason, we teamed up with Tappter to create ‘SEND Leaders Connect’ and Advanced.  This is a safe platform for leaders, parents and carers to connect, talk and find solutions. 

A few years back, I started looking at the SEND Leadership Pipeline, in a more structured way.  I was humbled when in 2017, this work was recognised internationally at a conference in Cambridge.  The concept is simple – a thought through process of professional development from trainee teacher/educator to advanced SEND Leader.  Over the years, we’ve tested various points of effective CPD.  We have been working with different organisations such as NASBTT, Hays Education, Optimus Education and others to make this a reality.  Last Friday, a book I have been working on for two years was also published to support those in the early stages of their career.  My PhD focus enables those with experience and expertise to be retained in the profession, so we do not lose the tacit knowledge of practitioners.

Finally, as a not for profit organisation, I have had a dream for a long time about how we can fund resources differently.  I have some big and achievable ideas to make this happen.  However, we are going to start small. Settings that join our SEND leaders Connect (Advance) which includes access to Tappter networks and a termly online meet with bonus sessions will have the opportunity of receiving a resource worth up to £100.  My long-term vision is much bigger than this!  Many have questioned me over this … if we are to create a culture of abundance of resources to meet needs, it starts with generosity and the belief ‘there is enough in this world for all to receive’.

Over the years, I often been mocked for my out-of-the-box thinking around SEND, but just looking at how we have trailed blazed over the last 9 years (i.e. since the start of the SEND Reforms), we have a lot to be thankful for:

  • 2011 – to date Several local authority projects to challenge inefficiency, redesign simpler systems and establish a more conducive and integrated local culture of support
  • 2012 – to date High impact professional networks, including several during #lockdown
  • From 2012 The #TeamADL Provision Review model has been adopted by many as an agile approach to review SEND provision and ensure it is consistent, as well as cohort responsive.  The methodology also ensures everyone has a voice.  This, with other unique CPD packages became an accredited training course in 2020
  • 2012-3 We developed some insights around ‘outcomes-based accountability’ that shaped the SEND Code of Practice 2014/15 (Partners: Optimus Education)
  • 2014-5 Designed and developed the SEND CoP Postcard.  This is still used by many schools and part of teacher training programmes globally
  • 2014-7 Workshops on SEND Finance and reducing the paperwork load. The reducing paperwork and increasing impact is still part of our core work and many schools and leaders have benefited from this. Here is some feedback.
  • 2015 Launch of www.sendreviewportal.net that is all about choice and informed decision making around procurement and commissioning.  On that note, concrete strategies on effective commissioning were shared at The Academies Show in 2017 and have been used by many schools since.  Do look at our SEND Advocates page
  • 2016 We published Time Management book for SENCOs (Partners: Optimus Education) This subsequently evolved into the first SEND Leader Planner in 2018 and subsequent versions in 2019 and 2020
  • 2017 We were privileged to be involved in the SEND ITT Toolkit (Partners: NASBTT and other ITT Providers)
  • 2019 MK SEND Careers Events (Partners: Network Rail, RiX and Natwest).  In the same year, #TeamADL were shortlisted alongside Virgin Media and the BBC for a Disability-Smart Award
  • 2019-2021 Strategic leadership development for those leading in Post 16 (Partners: Derby College)
  • 2020 During lockdown, we provided FREE SEND leader coaching to many schools and settings in the UK and internationally
  • 2020 onward SEND Leaders Appreciation Day (Partners: Hays Education).  You can find many of the stories on Instagram @send-leaders

… and now SEND Leaders Connect (Advanced) with Tappter plus a NEW way of funding resources through a #GiveBack approach. We have connected with Tappter for 5 main reasons: privacy, security, simplicity, connectivity and distraction free. The project has been piloted and scored independently by reviewers. As part of the pilot, we presented our approach to SENCOs and headteachers.

“Our Trust chose to use the SEND Leaders Connect Advance package because it is a simple and effective way to bring together professionals from across our Trust. This includes our SENCOs, where some are very experienced and others newly appointed. The App enables them to ask questions and support each other with advice and resources. It also connects our leadership teams and eventually we will connect our governors, bringing SEND to the forefront. We also chose to use it because it allows us to liaise with other professionals and experts across the region, including experts like Anita. – LH, Director of Education

Are our ideas out of the box? For sure! But we know they make a sustainable difference.  And you know, we know SEND Leadership! Listed above, are only a small selection of the partners we have had the absolute privilege of working with over the years. You can find others on our website.

#TeamADL is committed to ensuring everyone thrives in education, employment, and life. We stand up for people who are different because we are different.

If you would like to find out more about our three-prong approach to reconnecting a fragmented SEND system or anything we are involved in … do please get in touch.  We are excited about the future and the possibilities that lay ahead of us for a better system.  Ultimately, our heart remains focused on ensuing nothing holds the next generation back.  What is your hope for the future?

We have put on an extra meeting on 21st September 2020.  Click here to register.

About Anita Devi

Anita has had an extensive career in education.  Her why is based around the ‘joy of learning’.  As such, she focuses on what enables learners and what hinders them and more importantly, what can she do to improve the system.  Amongst many other roles, Anita leads #TeamADL

To find out more visit www.teamadl.uk

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