Tag Archives: #SpecialSchool

Introducing Dora – our school dog

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Having a school dog is not a new idea – there are many schools now that have school dogs and there is a raft of evidence online that tells of the benefits for both staff and children.

Having a school dog @camberwellpark is not a new idea either – it is something we have talked about on and off for a number of years. I am grateful however to @cherrylkd who having acquired her fabulous trainee therapy dog Doodles, spurred me into action once more  and was very supportive in linking me up with the breeder from where Doodles was born and I was able to get our little superstar puppy Dora.

As it is national pet month, and Dora has been in school for 3 weeks now,  it seems a perfect time to introduce her to a wider audience.

Dora is a miniature labradoodle, and as with Doodles, she has been particularly chosen as a breed as she is hypoallergenic and an intelligent, calm and friendly dog breed. Perfect for being with our children. At the time of writing this blog she is 13 weeks old.

Dora lives with me and travels into school with me each day. She has a crate in my office so that she has a quiet and safe place when she needs it, particularly whilst being a puppy.

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She has a big job ahead of her in school and we have shared information about her role and responsibilities on our website. She is a fully fledged member of staff and even has her own signing in and out to be done 😉

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In order to support the children learn about her we are developing a range of social stories. We will extend these out to a trip to the vets, going to puppy school and other things that Dora gets up to.

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We have photos of her dad , mum and one of her sisters so we can do ‘about her family’ for the children.

Dad 2                                  MumDora and her sister

 

 

 

 

 

 

She even has her own schedule in the office so that it can support the children to understand about routines and using their own schedules!

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We also have  a Dora object of reference as well as symbols to go on the children’s schedule when they are going to work with her.

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We are obviously managing Dora’s introduction to school very carefully for her sake and for that of the children in order for it to be successful. She is only a puppy yet so has lots to learn. She has started puppy training classes with me now and is doing really well. Once she has completed her basic training the trainer is going to work with me on particular skills as a therapy dog e.g. sitting still in her bed whilst being a reading dog for the children.

She has already proved her value however, she has a pet – gate at my office door and has a regular stream of children looking out for her and saying hello as they pass as well as asking loads of questions, wanting to draw / colour pictures and bring them to her. We have had more than one occasion when our pupils who have multiple learning difficulties have either stopped crying when they have held her, stilled and raised their heads and on another occasion one little girl whose hands are always clasped tight, immediately unfurled her hand , turned her eyes towards Dora and started blinking. On another occasion a year 6 pupil in crisis was able to de-escalate his anger very quickly by coming and telling Dora what had made him angry and then returning to class to continue his learning. Staff too are loving having her around and she is a therapy for them too. Dora doesn’t like anyone being sad and ran and comforted a member of staff who was upset about something from home when sat in my office. Dora cuddles were just what was needed at the time.

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She has visited lots of classes already and has been to assembly and is already the stimulus for lots of classroom work. Sadly,   due to pupil confidentiality I cannot share photos which show the children’s faces however  here is some of the fabulous writing one class has produced this week

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So Dora Camberwell – it is early days but you have already proved your worth.

School council are meeting next week to discuss and set out  ‘Dora rules’ – be gentle etc and write a list of things she needs so that classes can research and buy things for her.

She is very much part of the school

Thank you for taking the time to read about her

Mary Isherwood

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Measure what you value not value what you measure – our case studies

Some time ago I blogged on the issue of Measure what you value not value what you measure as it is increasingly a topic of discussion with regards to our pupils with SEND – how do we evidence progress in some of the areas we are so proud of for our learners and celebrate their achievement?

This blog focuses on one of the ways which we are doing this which is through Case Studies. I am blogging now as in recent discussions a few colleagues have asked me for information about how we put together what we are describing as a ‘gold standard’ case study – one which is rigorous and clear in evidencing progress. In the spirit of sharing – here is what we do!

At Camberwell Park School we are keen to evidence holistic pupil progress and have discussed and agreed 9 areas we feel are essential areas of learning for our pupils

i.e.

  • Core Subjects
  • Foundation Subjects
  • Mobility
  • Life skills
  • Personal and Social Development ( PSD)
  • Social, Moral, Spiritual and cultural education ( SMSC)
  • Communication
  • Behaviour
  • Characteristics of Learning

In order to demonstrate progress in these areas we have developed a set of case studies which includes a range of evidence sources.

To ensure the same rigour and high expectations are applied to our case studies as are with all other aspects of assessment, we have discussed and agreed what for us is a ‘GOLD STANDARD’ for putting together a case study:

 

  1. Overview of pupil info: Start by giving a very brief overview of the pupil (e.g. age, ethnicity, pupil premium) and their needs (e.g. SLD, Downs syndrome).
  2. Telling the story : The case study must tell the story from start to finish – clarity on the starting point – how was the child presenting? Needs / goals? How did we meet the needs and what were the outcomes?
  3. Easy to read format: The case study should be clear in presentation – use of headers, imagines, bullet points, bold and italicized writing to ensure all information is accessible and clear to the reader. The school logo should be included at the start and the key area of focus from the 9 areas above should be identified.  Arial font, size 12 should be used.
  4. Include real data: The case study should include real data – quantitative and qualitative. Quotes from others e.g parents / carers / members of the multi-agency team and where ever possible the pupils themselves.
  5. Links to evidence documents: Links to evidence documents e.g. end of year reports, EHCplans, video clips should be used. Word documents can be embedded.
  6. Summary A conclusion to draw the case study to a close – what was the overall impact?

 

I am sadly not able to share any completed case studies due to pupil confidentiality  . What I can tell you is that they now form part of a comprehensive both quantitative and qualitative assessment system in school and they have been successful both in terms of process as well as product – the professional dialogue of colleagues working together to write them has been invaluable as well as the amazing product of the completed case studies which very clearly demonstrate progress in all of the areas detailed above.

Hope this information is useful to colleagues

Thanks for reading

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

‘Preparation for the next stage of education’ Supporting pupils with SEND in their transition to high school

Whilst we all accept change is a part of life and change can be a good thing, never the less change can be hard. We all find comfort in things which are familiar and have ways that we prepare ourselves for changes ahead of us.

In the context of school life, transition from primary to secondary school is one of the biggest changes and whilst opening up lots of new  and exciting opportunities, can also provoke anxiety for all pupils. For pupils with SEND, this is particularly the case. It is often in our experience a really difficult time for families too as they worry about their little ones making this next big step.

In this blog I write from our own experience @camberwellpark  school in supporting our pupils and their families through the experience in order to make it as positive and successful as possible.

Whilst this blog is focussed on the change from primary to secondary school, managing change is something we support our pupils with throughout their time in school from day to day changes of time – table  / rooms / activities through to changing to new classes at the end of the year. This can include use of visual schedules, now and next cards, social stories, circle time activities – what ever is relevant, appropriate and useful for individual pupils as like us, all of our pupils respond differently and need different levels and methods of support.

With regards to transition to high school, our positive and collaborative  relationship with @NorthRidgeSch  where most of our pupils move on to is integral to making our pupil’s transition successful. The headteacher or other senior colleague from the school attends the annual reviews for all of our year 5 pupils to start to get to know them and to share information about the school with their parents. She also  welcomes families of year 5 pupils to visit the school. We find families value the opportunities to talk to us about their child’s move to high school as over the years we build a relationship of trust and support, as well as talking to staff from the high school so that they can feel reassured and have any questions they have answered directly.

Whilst the transition plan follows a general format of a programme of visits  for the pupils in year 6 to their high school during the summer term, it is important for us to consider the individual needs of the pupils and where needed offer additional visits / support or indeed recognise for some pupils the programme of visits may be unhelpful in terms of them managing the change. It is our knowledge of the pupils that enables us to work with them in a way which is most helpful to them. We ensure we staff the visits with staff from our school who know the pupils well and who are best placed to share relevant info with high school staff as well as support the pupils on their visits. The visits are gradually increased in length from a short visit with a drink in the community cafe, extended over a period of weeks to include lunch and eventually full days. This is accompanied by relevant work back at own own school in relation to the change – work on feelings as well as practical aspects of the move to the new school.

Pupil voice is very important to us and whilst through our observations of the pupils and informal conversations with them we felt our transition programme was positive and effective, we wanted to investigate this further so we set about doing a pupil questionnaire – completed during year 6 before the move  to high school and repeated during year 7 after the move.

Here is a case study of one of our pupils

Transfer to High School  :  Case study  

M was a Y6 pupil in Summer 2016 who was transferring to Northridge High School in September 2016.

He had been on 7 visits to his new class/school, starting with a one hour visit/tour of the school and finishing with a full day visit. 

M had been asked during the start of his transition visits,  ( Easter 2016 onward) a few simple questions.  Familiar symbols were used to support M understanding the questions. His answers are in bold below written as they were said.

·         How was your first visit to your new school? ‘I liked it and was excited.’

·         What did you like? ‘I like the radio room they had a real microphone and I like the cafe’

·         What did you not like? ‘ I liked everything’

·         Are you worried about anything?  Why? ‘ I am a little bit nervous it will be hard to know where to get the fruit and milk from’

The answers that M gave were then discussed with him, and strategies put into place to further support his anxieties/transition process.

M was then asked some questions in November 2016 once his move to high school was complete.

·         Have you settled into your new school? ‘Yes’

·         What do you really like about your new school? ‘The “cafe, mugger and the football”’

·         Did you have enough visits to Northridge when you were at Camberwell? ‘Yes’

·         Would you have liked some visits to last longer? ‘No ok’

·         Could Camberwell Park have done anything else to help you move to your new school? ‘ “A nufer day”

The responses from M and the other year 6 pupils have been used for us to continue to shape and develop our transition processes for all of the pupils moving on to high school so that we can confidently feel they are effectively prepared for the next stage of education.

We are discussing how we support our pupils to manage changes of all different sorts on @SENexchange at 8 – 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday 14th June 2017. It would be great if you could join us and share your good practice too

 

 

Being an investor in people

It is often said that staff are our greatest resource in school. I couldn’t agree more!

This week we have had a review of our Investors in People award however I am writing this blog post deliberately before we receive the outcome of our assessment as for me, as a strong advocate of being an Investor in People, it is not about the badge of recognition as much as the process and review of the work we do with our staff that enables the accreditation to happen.

What the Investors in People award process does is give you a framework and a system of progression to consider where you are at in 9 key areas of involving staff in the organisation and offers a clear benchmark against other organisations both in education and business. I am sure no – one would argue that the 9 areas outlined by the IIP standard are all equally important. They are: Leading and inspiring people, Living the organisation’s values and behaviours, Empowering and involving people, Managing performance, Recognising and rewarding high performance, Structuring work, Building capacity, Delivering continuous improvement and Creating sustainable success.

The children are at the heart of the school – rightly so – our core purpose is about meeting their holistic needs. The school is more than that though – we are a community – an extended family and in order to achieve what we set out to achieve we want a workforce who is the ‘best they can be’ in terms  of being knowlegeable, skilled, involved, empowered, trusted, resilient, have good health and wellbeing and enjoy their work. In the case of our school, we want a workforce that has all signed up to be PROUD: Passionate, Respectful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated.  Being PROUD is the stick of rock which runs through everything we do from recruitment and selection of new staff, in all of our policies, through the appraisal system…through everything we do!

As a headteacher I have a clear role together with my leadership team to establish an ethos of aspiration and collaboration based on policies and procedures which enable all of the above things to happen.  It has been interesting when reflecting on where we are at in each area as we prepared for our review this week on how much has changed since we were last assessed 3 years ago. That is how it should be – as a school we do not sit still – everything we do constantly evolves as we are both proactive as well as responsive to changes going on within school, locally as well as nationally.

I am a PROUD headteacher. I am Passionate about supporting my staff team. I Respect that they all have different needs and ways of working. I am Organised in ensuring the systems and structures are in place to support them. I Understand that staff are also human beings who have their own needs / issues / lives outside of school too! I am Dedicated to ensuring the staff team can be the ‘best they can be’ .

Having said that the process is the most important part of being an Investor in People – absolutely right, however, having put in for assessment we clearly are hoping we have achieved the standard! The assessor spent two full days in school talking to individuals and different groups of staff. All staff were invited to complete an IIP  questionnaire. The assessor has also taken away a bank of school based evidence to review including staff, parent and multi-agency questionnaires, minutes of meetings, staff handbook, key policies, the school improvement plan and self evaluation form etc etc etc. He has to match whether the experience of staff he talked to matches what is in the documents we provided. Are we walking the walk as well as talking the talk?!

We have twice previously achieved the Investors in People ‘Gold Award’. Here’s hoping we will retain the Gold standard for the 3rd time! We find out in about a month time when we receive the report.

Of course that won’t be the end of it…there will always be developments we can consider, improvements we can make to ensure our school remains a school to be PROUD of.

Mary Isherwood

Headteacher

 

 

 

 

 

To P or not to P? That is the question : My response to the Rochford Review final report

So after a long time waiting the Rochford Review final report has been published bringing with it a series of 10 recommendations to be considered for implementation by the DfE (summary on page 7 of the report).

The report and it’s recommendations has been a big topic of conversation  with practitioners on SLD forum and some colleagues have blogged on the report already such as this helpful review from @cherrylkd. I am sure it will be something we will want to chat about on @SENexchange too!

It would be hard to disagree with the underlying  / guiding principles outlined on page 11 of the report – principles which underpin the work we are so passionate about with our learners with SEND. I appreciate however how they are spelled out for us, reminding us of their importance. It is hard to pick out ‘favourites’ from the list of 11  guiding principles however, the ones I highlighted reading through were that ‘every child should be able to demonstrate his / her attainment and progress’, ‘Parents/ carers should receive meaningful information about the achievement/ progress of their child and should be involved appropriately in assessment procedures’, ‘ Curriculum should drive assessment and not the other way round’, ‘It should be possible to assess the application of knowledge, understanding and skills in a range of different contexts’ and ‘The language used to describe the achievements and progress of these pupils should always be positive, inclusive and should be jargon free’.

The central focus of the report and the one we have all been waiting for is the recommendation regarding the future of P levels. We have been grappling with trying to use P levels for summative assessment of our pupil’s progress and this has become increasingly challenging with their mismatch with the revised National Curriculum. The majority of respondents to the review consultation agreed that P levels are no longer fit for purpose and it has been music to my ears to hear recommendations that any future system should acknowledge lateral as well as linear progress made by our pupils. Removing the statutory requirement to assess using P levels (recommendation 1, Pg 13 – 14) is welcomed.  In addition, Recommendation 3 ( Pg 16 – 17)  which  acknowledges the value of achievements in all 4 areas of need. At Camberwell Park School whilst continuing to use P levels as the statutory measure for core subjects, we have invested in developing our enhanced  curriculum ( how aspects such as being a Unicef Rights respecting school add value to our school) and our personalised curriculum ( giving teachers autonomy to be more flexible  in their timetables to respond to individual and small group pupil needs). This is particularly important to my mind when ensuring that we work towards the outcomes outlined in the child’s EHCP – something we are proud to say is embedded into our every day practice as identified in the peer review  we commissioned on this aspect of our work last year. Our holistic assessment therefore includes what for us is a ‘Gold standard case study’ which demonstrates progress in 9 areas: Core subjects, Foundation Subjects, mobility, Life skills, PSD, SMSC, Communication, Behaviour and Characteristics of learning. Our job now is to align these to the 7 area of engagement outlined in recommendation 4 (page 18 – 19 of the report).

I whole –  heartedly agree with the review with the review group members that where ever possible pupils should be included in the mainstream statutory assessment arrangements and as a school we had already adopted the recommendations from the interim review  including using Pre-key stage expectations for pupils working above P8. I also feel lucky that we have a good network with both mainstream and special schools in Manchester and with special schools across Greater Manchester where practitioners from our school moderate assessments / judgements made about pupil progress and attainment.  Recommendations 7 and 8 ( pages 24 / 25) reinforce the need for sharing good practice and quality assurance processes to be rigorous as we move forward in order for our judgements to have any credibility. I would urge mainstream and special schools to forge and strengthen these challenge and support relationships – there is so much we can learn from each other.

At this stage the review findings are recommendations – we await consultation and agreement from the DfE which I understand will be  in early 2017 with a view to implementation in summer 2018. There is clearly lots more work to be done – not least to decide as a school / school sector how we will apply the principles of assessing the 7 indicators of cognition and learning ( page 22) and assess these for pupils not engaging in subject specific learning ( a danger  if we are not careful of replacing one inappropriate linear assessment system with another!) – however – my vote is definitely – not to P! The Rochford review is a step in the right direction so come on DfE – give us the go ahead so we can get on with our work!

 

 

‘Measure what you value not value what you measure’ . A special school context

 

The context

In my last blog I shared the presentation delivered by Mary Rayner HMI  when she spoke at a recent Greater Manchester leadership conference about the implementation of the Common Inspection Framework in the special school context.

One of the key messages we all took away with us was that in our schools there are many things in addition to Core and Foundation subjects which we value and want to celebrate, however, the onus is on us to ensure we are able to provide evidence of impact. It is not enough for us just to say how outstanding we are at for example personal and social development – how do we know? Importantly too if we are making a judgement of outstanding – what is that in relation to? How would it compare to other similar pupils in other similar settings?

Following the presentation, as a leadership team and then as a group of teachers, we have begun work on ensuring we have clarity on this in our own school.

The key questions for us were:

  • what areas ( in addition to Core and Foundation subjects) were we agreeing were the key areas we want to focus on / celebrate in terms of pupil achievement?
  • What are our existing sources of evidence for progress in these areas?
  • In what format do we want to present our evidence and who to? ( parents / governors / website)
  • On what basis are we making our judgements?
  • How do our judgements / evidence compare to that in other schools?

Where are we up to and what are our next steps?

The staff and governors have now agreed 9 key areas of achievement for our school. They are:

  • Core subjects
  • Foundation Subjects
  • Mobility
  • Social, Moral, Spiritual, Cultural (SMSC)
  • Behaviour
  • Communication
  • Characteristics of learning
  • Personal and social development (PSD)
  • Life Skills

We talked about how many of these overlap but can also identify key distinctions in our definitions of each one.

We then went onto deciding on and listing existing evidence sources for each area as we do not want to get into creating additional checklists for the sake of it! Many evidence sources are generic for each area e.g. formative assessment records, classroom observations, displays, end of year reports…however there are some evidence sources which are bespoke to individual areas e.g. for PSD / SMSC / Characteristics of learning – school council minutes have been included on the list of evidence sources.

We are now in the process of compiling case studies for each of the areas to which evidence sources which exemplify the progress made by some of our pupils will be attached. When complete, the table indicating our 9 areas of pupil progress with their evidence sources and anonymised case studies will be included on our website on the curriculum / assessment page.

Rather than relying solely on our own judgement however, in order to benchmark against other schools, we are working with special school leaders across Greater Manchester (in the established network   working group we have already which includes cross moderation of assessments), we are agreeing as a group what a ‘Gold standard’ case study should look like and then during 16 – 17 are planning to cross moderate each other’s case studies – a professional dialogue which will be really valuable.

On 13th July, we are going to discuss this topic between 8 – 8.30 p.m. on @SENexchange – a chat which I @Mishwood1, co-host with @cherrylkd and we would really love to hear from other schools about how you are tackling this issue? Let’s share good practice and ensure together we can make sure we achieve the best possible holistic outcomes for our children and young people with SEND.

Whilst this has been a conversation in this blog about learners with SEND, I am sure mainstream colleagues would agree that there are so many achievements other than core and foundation curriculum in all of our schools for all of our pupils so I would welcome views from all settings.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you

Mary

 

 

 

 

Measure what you value not value what you measure: Some key messages for SEND

Yesterday was our annual Greater Manchester special school leadership conference and we were really pleased to have Mary Rayner HMI there to speak to us about the implementation of the Common Inspection Framework in the special school context, the implications of national working groups on achievement and evaluation of progress and the Local Area Inspection Framework with regards to schools being part of the local area.

The 50 or so people that attended the conference found Mary’s presentation informative, helpful and reassuring and therefore I felt it would be useful to share the key points she spoke about to a wider audience.

Mary is one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors ( HMI) and is one of Ofsted’s National Leads for SEND. Mary’s substantial leadership experience in the special and mainstream sector gives her immense credibility and her knowledge and experience of the full range of childruen and young people we work with was evident throughout her presentation.

Mary began by emphasising her belief in ‘removal of labels’ such as SLD / PMLD in the sense that geographically these can mean different things to different people. What counts is the individual child, their individual needs and how we can meet them. How could anyone disagree with that?

Common inspection framework – key messages from Mary

  • The CIF is intended to provide coherence, clarity and comparability – schools judged against the same set of standards

Teaching Learning and Assessment

  • Assessment is now in the right place as assessment SHOULD be informing Teaching and learning
  • As inspectors must take account of learning, Mary challenged us as leaders to really consider what it is we value in our school ( e.g. in special school context independence / self help skills, developing of friendships etc) and if we value these things – how do we measure them / show evidence of progress? We need to decide what is good progress for our learners. Inspectors can only take account of information if it is evidenced and moderated to ensure judgements are consistent. The CIF gives us an opportunity to be able to state what we value as part of our ethos – but we have the responsibility to evidence how it impacts on our pupils.
  • We need to tell our school story very clearly and concisely – e.g. if our cohort of pupils has changed and it has meant we have responded and changed our practice – how? why? impact?
  • There is no requirement for ‘data’ to be in a certain format – it can be in many forms – including where relevant and appropriate video evidence for example. As long as you show and evidence progress in a way that is relevant and appropriate to your school and your pupils – that is fine. Important to also take account of pupils for who may have conditions which mean for them there is regression in skills. Make sure their story is told.
  • Define in your own school what pupil ‘work’ is – what does it look like? where would you find it? where would you look for evidence of progress over time? DVDs? Displays?
  • Most important – school practice MUST reflect school policy! e.g. there is no requirement for particular systems of marking – however – if policy says particular requirement then that is what should be seen.
  • Assessment – doesn’t matter what you call it in your school – how do you know it is right? How do you baseline? Measure? moderate to ensure consistency? – using trusted professionals from other schools is sensible to support the process. Don’t avoid moderation with others in other schools even if using different systems – using them to check your systems are robust
  • Need to ensure breadth / depth / range of evidence – if teaching some curriculum areas within others on the timetable – that is fine but needs to be clear
  • Are you sure that all your teachers have the same high expectations?
  • Who are your groups in school – you can decide  within your own context – how do you define them?
  • Baseline is really important. Age, starting points AND time in school are all important as part of measuring and judging progress. Make sure for your own school you have considered what the judgements are and why
  • This is our opportunity to measure all the things we value and present them in a way that is meaningful  AND informs next steps
  • Assessment is linked to curriculum but doesn’t define it

Personal development, behaviour and welfare

 

  • Think about what is must be like to be a pupil at your school – kneel down – see it from their perspective
  • Ensure you are considering preparation for the next stage of education
  • Only use B code in register for actual teaching when you as a school know what is happening and you are monitoring it as a school
  • Improvement in behaviour? How do you know? What are you measuring?
  • You can consider resilience, self – help and independence in this category

Outcomes

  • No longer rule of 3 years of data
  • Professional judgement is important alongside other information you will provide
  • Rochford review – interim report – tried to fill gaps between P8 and what were National curriculum levels. Rochford review have been considering P levels – recommendations currently with ministers and should be published soon
  • P levels can be just a reporting tool. Many schools also use as an assessment tool but don’t have to.
  • Use networks to create comparative information which can be used to evidence progress
  • Can talk about regression and for some children sustaining  achievement

Leadership and management

  • What you do, why do you do it and what is the impact?
  • What is uncompromising ambition in your school ? Define it for yourselves.
  • Do governors share same passion and understanding? Do they understand pupil groups? Do they challenge and support leadership ?
  • What is the effectiveness of SMSC
  • Is vision and ethos clear on website? What information is on your website and what messages does it send about your school. Remember – inspectors will look at this before coming into your school to consider their ‘lines of enquiry’

With regards to Local Area inspections, Mary was just urging us to play our part in the overall information gathering in relation to SEND when inspectors come into school to look at EHCP plans and talk to various stakeholders about their experience of the process.

What was interesting was that after Mary had spoken, there were very few questions. The reason for this was that everybody had felt that Mary had answered the questions they had wanted to ask during her presentation. I hope sharing this with you has answered some of your questions too.

With my best wishes

Mary Isherwood