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SEND Leaders need to be brave

Posted: 15/04/19

Barry Jones talks about the importance of reflection for leaders delivering the SEND Reforms.

SEND Leaders need to be brave

After being a participant on the first ever national SEND leadership programme 4 years ago, I’m proud to say that I’m now part of the NDTi team delivering SEND leadership programme to its 4th cohort of SEND Leaders. And, whilst some of the challenges, pressures and opportunities remain the same, it is clear to me that we need, now more than ever, effective, emotionally resilient and collaborative leaders.

The outcomes of children and young people with SEND nationally are not only well documented, they are woefully poor. Whilst there ARE many examples regionally where strong leadership is creating the conditions for change and improving outcomes, we urgently need more work to deliver the true intentions of the SEND reforms to enable children and young people to live ordinary lives and improve their outcomes as they prepare for adulthood.

From our work, it is clear that leaders are facing multiple challenges, significant financial pressures and overspends, recruitment and retention issues, competing agendas and partnership priorities. The list goes on!

However, despite that, we already know what works and what it takes to improve - It all comes down to leadership.

Our SEND Leaders need to be brave - reflecting on human rights and using value-based leadership to act as a compass to ensure we do not lose sight of the task at hand.

  • We need more leaders working across systems and partnerships that can confidently lead without authority.
  • We need to create strong and powerful relationships and partnerships that place children, young people at the centre whilst co-creating and co-owning a shared vision.
  • We need leaders to align people to create powerful communities of change working together to deliver the shared vision.

Evidence shows that effective leaders consistently communicate the vision and empower and motivate people to deliver positive change that improves outcomes. A participant on this year’s leadership programme shared her director’s mantra; “don't break the law and don't break the bank” -  as long as people followed those two simple rules they were empowered and given permissions to think big, be creative and do what it takes to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

This kind of empowerment for SEND Leaders, not only comes from their own leadership, but from reflection too. The SEND Leaders programme is often celebrated for its time to reflect with peers, reflection that often leads to powerful insights and breakthroughs, identifying and challenging limiting believes and assumptions.

Another participant reflected on their time on the programme, saying

“you broke me and put me back together to be the truly authentic SEND leader I was destined to be”

Knowing how important reflection is to this role, we have developed the SEND Leadership Reflection Tool to pose key questions for all leaders across education, health, care and the wider SEND partnerships to consider together and individually.

To download this free tool click here

To read more about the SEND Leadership programme click here