I’m coming to the end of my first full school year as Head of School here at New Bridge, having joined the school part way through the school year in January 2018. It’s been an incredible journey over the past eighteen months and there are many aspects of my job that have made it an immensely rewarding experience; developing my relationship with a whole new group of brilliant pupils and an incredible staff team; meeting and working alongside our fantastic parents to ensure we deliver the best offer for our children; helping to shape the direction and work of this outstanding school and playing a part in its ongoing success. I really look forward to many more years of contributing to the difference our staff team makes every day. It’s not been without its challenges though, tough times are to be expected, it’s all part of any job and the learning that you take from each of these challenges helps you grow and develop; as someone once said, we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges.
I have to say, however, that the most significant challenge I’ve been faced with in my first Head of School position and one that has been at the forefront of my mind, particularly in recent months, is the financial challenge we find ourselves in, along with special schools up and down the country. In the last three years, SEND funding has been cut by 17% in real terms across England; this figure was even higher in the north of England at 22%. We now have less money per pupil coming into our schools as the cost of running them has risen in line with inflation. In frustration, campaigners and parents marched on Downing Street earlier this year, to demand an increase in SEND funding, delivering a petition calling for action to tackle this crisis in SEND provision. This week a group of families mounted a High Court challenge to the government’s funding of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities. As Graham discusses in his blog this week, we have also been part of this fight, writing to MPs and to the Chancellor and lobbying for extra funding with the aim of influencing the next national spending review taking place in November.
In the meantime, the impact of these cuts continues to be very real in our school and the challenge to ‘balance the books’ remains. My job is to ensure we are financially sustainable so that we can continue to make the difference to our pupils and their families well into the future; it is to find new ways of working that save money whilst strengthening the quality of our offer; it is to sustain the energy, motivation and good will of our brilliant staff team when they feel more stretched and challenged than they ever have previously. This is no easy task and one I can’t achieve alone. It requires the collective talent of our team to face this challenge head on and come out of it stronger than before. It requires a collaborative effort to embrace this opportunity for growth.
I know that over the last eighteen months our team have faced this challenge with me. It has been tough, and the changes it has brought with it have stretched us all. Yet because of our sustained effort, our pupils, at the centre of all of this, continue to get a truly outstanding offer. They are making progress, even going beyond expectations because of the sustained quality of teaching. We’ve put on one of the biggest school performances ever this year with The Greatest Show, sold out over 8 performances. Our pupils are competing locally, regionally and nationally in sporting events and bringing home medals of their achievements. We’ve enjoyed two more successful residential visits to Disneyland Paris and Haven Holiday Park and several successful Duke of Edinburgh qualifiers. Our pupils are progressing onto paid employment, further education, successful independent and supported living placements and actively taking part in the communities in which they live. I could go on.
None of this could be possible without a team that digs deep in face of adversity, that pulls together when things get difficult. I want to take this opportunity to thank every single member of our team for their commitment and dedication, for their diligence and hard work, for their passion and enthusiasm. I want to thank our parents whose support and challenge pushes us to be the best we can be.
Together we will overcome this temporary hurdle by using it to stimulate change, to drive innovation, to reveal new ways of working that we never thought possible but which make us even better at what we do: ‘Creating meaningful futures’.
“Difficulties and adversities viciously force all their might on us and can cause us to fall apart, but they are necessary elements of individual growth and reveal our true potential. We have got to endure and overcome them, and move forward. Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger and never last forever.” ― Roy T. Bennett
You can find Dawn’s blog for the Learning Centre here
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Click here to read this week’s news from Graham
You can find my previous blog posts here