From being a 6th form student studying for my A levels, I volunteered one day per week at a local special school. I was one of those people who always knew what they want to do! I applied and was successful gaining a place at Westhill College in Birmingham where I completed a B Ed with ‘special needs’ as my main subject. My teaching placements were in both mainstream and special schools. on one of the summer holidays during my degree course I went to live with a family who had a young person with ASD so I could deepen my understanding of the experience of a family with a child who has SEND ( they advertised in college for someone to be placed with them to support over the long summer break) . I am pleased to say I am still in touch with them as I am with a small number of families of other children I have taught over my career.
I was lucky to find a teaching job in an all – age special school close to where I then lived in Blackburn, Lancashire where I taught classes of mainly secondary aged pupils with a range of special needs and was also subject leader formusic teaching music throughout the school including to classes in the primary department. I was there for just over 10 years. During that time I was also teacher governor leading the curriculum committee and held a responsibility post for assessment throughout the school.
I was delighted to be appointed to a deputy head post in an all – age school in Rochdale for my next post where I enjoyed teaching in every class in order to cover PPA time for the teachers. During this time I completed my NPQH – I had no intention of becoming a headteacher – I was doing it to become a better deputy!
I gained my first headteacher post in a small special school in Manchester in 2002. The school was established as an assessment centre for children for whom it was uncertain whether they would need specialist or mainstream provision and whilst they were with us we completed their statutory assessment. The school also had a mainstream playgroup as part of the provision allowing full inclusion of children playing and learning together. It was fab! During my time at this school I also became very involved with Chernobyl Children’s Project and had the opportunity to go on a visit to Belarus to support the work they were doing. During the time I was headteacher there I also completed my M Ed in Educational Leadership.
I took up my post as headteacher of Camberwell Park School in September 2006. Since being at the school we have grown in size from 85 to 146 pupils with plans in place for further expansion, we have been judged outstanding by Ofsted 3 times and have gained the Gold Award for Investors in People 3 times. The school has an amazing hard working and committed team of staff and the children are most certainly at the heart of the school.
During my tenure as Headteacher at Camberwell Park I became a National Leader of Education which has earned me the privilege of working with a supporting a range of other schools across Greater Manchester. From 2015 to 2019 I also enjoyed setting up and co- running a weekly SEND themed discussion on @SENexchange on Twitter alongside @Cherrylkd
After 14 years as headteacher of Camberwell Park School and 33 years working with children with SEND and their families, I have made the decision that it is time for me to take early retirement. I will be leaving the school at the end of the summer term. Dora, who has been at the school with me for the last 2 years is retiring with me 🙂
Last year I was honoured and privileged to have been awarded an OBE by the Queen in her New Years Honours list. It was a humbling and emotional and special experience which for me captured how important children with SEND and their families have been and will always be in my life.
The advert for my post will go live at the end of this week – will start making it real at that point! I know that Camberwell Park School will continue to be an amazing place because of the amazing people that work there!
I have not made any plans for my retirement as yet – I will see what opportunities come my way. What is for sure is that I will always remain Passionate about advocating for Children with SEND and their families, Respectful of the families I have worked with over the last 33 years, Organised in continuing to advocate for SEND after I have left the school e.g. through social media, Understanding of the challenges faced by our families of children with SEND and Dedicated to doing whatever I can to support SEND in the future. I will always be PROUD to have had the opportunities I have had the privilege to work with so many special people.
Headteacher of Camberwell Park School
September 2006 – July 2020