Thursday, October 18th, 2018
Education for all. A straightforward ambition for all of our children that we would probably all sign up to. But it is an ambition with quite a number of challenges as I have been finding out over recent weeks myself. We have in this council, as in many councils, some real financial challenges in the area of Special Educational Needs. Escalating demand and increasing cost of provision against a backdrop of insufficient government funding to deal with the issue.
Any way, I took the opportunity to have half a day out with Nikki Joyce, who is our Head of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Disability Service. We first went to Mowbray School in Bedale. The school provides education to over 200 young people with a range of special needs relating to physical and mental disability and behavioural problems. We had a great conversation with the Head, Jonathan Tearle, we talked through the issues and challenges of working in this area but also how he and his team work to ensure that every child at their school maximises their potential and achieves the goals that they can. A special school of the scale of Mowbray is unusual in North Yorkshire and it was interesting to see that it enables an extremely rich curriculum for its pupils, great classroom facilities and brilliant outside space – both in terms of sports, but also with the added interest of a small farm with a wide range of animals. This includes 150 hens with quite a thriving market in the sale of eggs! Here are some pictures of Mowbray School, including the hens!
We next visited the pupil referral service in Northallerton, which provides schooling for young people who cannot access mainstream schools because they have been excluded or because of severe medical conditions. The Northallerton unit is a relatively small facility but vital in providing a last chance educational opportunity for some young people with really challenging behaviour. I had a great conversation with the Head, Helen Whitehead, who is committed to the young people in her care and also to working with schools to prevent pupils with challenging behaviour from being excluded from the school in the first place.
What was worrying about both establishments that I visited was that they were full and under some pressure from the growing need that existed. Part of the focus for my conversations during the day was how can the system collectively work better together so that we retain more young people in mainstream education and reserve our specialist provision for those who absolutely require it. At times of stress it’s often understandable to focus on what is immediately in front of us, and of course that’s important. But I would argue it’s equally important to look at those around us, who we affect by our behaviour and actions, and to make sure that it is the broader system that we collectively have regard to.
Last week was one of the highlights of the year with our Awards for health and adult services. As ever it was great to see so much excellent practice highlighted. You can read the press release for more information.
Finally, the World Cycling Championships took place in Innsbruck last week. This marked ‘one year to go’ until the very same world championships take place in Harrogate (next year). It was an opportunity for us to tell the world about what a brilliant event it will be! We will inspire everyone with what North Yorkshire has to offer; provide the most inclusive championships involving para-cycling for the very first time and be innovative with the first mixed men and women’s racing taking place.
Information from hotels in Harrogate is that they are already booking up. So there is loads of interest, we now just have a year to deliver it!