How many young people in our schools continue to wear armour? Are guarded… closed… afraid to let their barriers down? A lot… too many. But this level of self-protection may be the only way to survive at home or in their lives outside school. And over recent years, this armour has probably grown thicker and could last longer.
In Dare to Lead, Brene Brown says:
‘What we can do, and what we are ethically called to do, is create a space in our schools and classrooms where students can walk in and, for that day or hour, take off the crushing weight of their armour, hang it on a rack, and open their heart to truly being seen’.
Education trusts like ours are playing a pivotal part in helping ensure all children are provided with the support and help they need to reach their potential within the classroom and beyond, and this is why our focus on special educational needs is so important.
Recognising the rising requirement to provide support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, the Nene Education Trust made the conscious and deliberate decision to appoint a Trust wide SEND Lead as a priority in September 2021.
Nene Education Trust aims ‘to unlock the potential of all children, remove the barriers to aspiration and ensure that all children succeed’. Many school trusts appoint a director of maths or English as their first appointment, focusing on academic subjects.
However, at the Nene Education Trust, we took the decision to appoint a Trust SEND, safeguarding and mental health & wellbeing lead first, as these three separate roles are incredibly important and pivotal to true inclusion.
Our eight schools, collectively, have a total of 2,972 pupils, of which, 436 are identified as having special educational needs.
Karen Stevenson, our Trust’s SEND Lead, explained:
“The SEND aim is to offer provision in all of our schools, in conjunction with colleagues and external professionals, which enables all learners to thrive socially, emotionally and academically from their start points.”
As part of this, the Trust has just run its annual Trust training day where over 200 teachers gathered to take part in SEND training. Karen and the school SENDCOs led workshops on the four key areas of need which included top tips on how to support pupils in the classroom. Expertise and experience were shared across all eight schools, which teach pupils from reception through to Sixth Form.
Having a SEND lead in situ enables the Trust to support all the SENDCOs through training and support, so they are able to ensure all of the pupils in their school have the right access to appropriate provision and resources.
The steps the Trust have put in place with a focus on SEND and support for teachers and pupils has come at a crucial point in education where, coming out of COVID, there is greater levels of need being identified, including speech and language issues and a growing proportion of children presenting with social, emotional and mental
In a bid to support schools further with this, the Trust has appointed a speech and language therapist, Amy Whenman, to work across all the schools. Amy was already working at the Trust’s Newton Road School where a need for specialist speech and language support for the children had been identified. Post-lockdown, speech and language became a huge issue for some children coming into reception and it was vitally important that those needs were identified as quickly as possible to ensure early support could be put in place.
Furthermore, the Trust has provided additional funding for specific in-school SEND provision over the past 18 months for all schools. At Newton Road, this allowed for a small nurture provision to be set up, with a focus on helping children with social, emotional and mental health needs, specifically, with their self-regulation.
In response, school staff have dedicated themselves to supporting pupils with a range of interventions and undergone significant amounts of training, including attachment theory and trauma and mental health training to better equip themselves with the skills to support all of the children.
The world is a scary place and there is a whole heap of unknowns. The pressures are real; our young people are less and less mentally healthy. Recent events have not helped… so, as educators, we must have the courage to fully focus on letting the young people in our schools, whatever their age, be allowed to be
Because, as Brene says:
‘We should never underestimate the benefit of a child having a place to belong – even one – where they can take off their armour. It can and often does change the trajectory of their life’.
Nene Education Trust is a multi-academy trust comprising Newton Road School in Rushden, Windmill Primary in Raunds, Stanwick Primary, Raunds Park Infants, St. Peter’s CE Junior, Woodford CE Primary, Redwell Primary in Wellingborough and Manor School in Raunds.
For further information visit neneeducationtrust.org.uk