Remembrance and SEN

Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith of the A Team in the 1980s’ TV series had the catchphrase of “I love it when a plan comes together”, and I did feel that way after an excellent discussion with Julie Day, our newly appointed lead for Vulnerable Learners, and attending the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Hub for South Staffordshire on Friday morning.  I’ve long believed that the role of the senior leader is to create the conditions in which good people can achieve their greatest potential; with SEN, it’s taken some time, but it does feel that that is now happening.  The SEN Hub is one of the key elements of the Local Offer, and it is worth describing.  The Head Teachers of the district’s mainstream and special schools meet on a monthly basis to discuss cases of children with SEN – in this case about 20 children were discussed in detail.  Also in the meeting are County Council SEN specialists and representatives of the children’s services.  What struck me was the open and engaged nature of the discussions, with all parties offering advice and suggestions of different approaches and therapies to get the right solutions for some children with very challenging conditions and behaviours.  The patience and resolve of all involved was inspirational.   I passionately believe that the best solution is for as many children with SEN to be educated in mainstream settings with the appropriate support to ensure that they live as independent lives as possible.  As we roll out the Local Offer across the rest of the county, it will adapt to the local conditions, but it certainly looks like the right solution to a very complex set of issues. 

I am writing this on Remembrance Sunday before attending a service in Stafford; tomorrow I will lay a wreath in Chadsmoor in Cannock at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 101 years after the end of the First World War.  It is remarkable and humbling, as a veteran, that the country makes such an effort to remember the service of our Armed Forces.  We often focus on those who died, and sometimes we focus on those who bear the mental and physical scars of their service, but I would ask you to consider all of those who have served our country in your everyday activities.  We are just ordinary people, who joined whichever branch, regiment or corps of our service, and we return as civilians to the communities that we left.  I count myself as enormously fortunate to have moved into a challenging and rewarding job, but not everybody is so lucky.  It is a reality that the Armed Forces in the UK are dearly loved, but not very well understood; the preconceptions often get in the way of veterans establishing second careers.  I would ask that, if you are ever hiring somebody, take a little time to understand a veteran’s experience and potential.  The chances are that he or she is just like you, but with a slightly different set of education, training and experience, and it might be that their potential will add real value to your team.         

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