Monday, 24 November 2008

Vote for Penny Field and make a difference

Today is the day that your vote can make a real difference to the lives of some of the most disabled and challenged children in Leeds. Our People's Millions bid will feature on Calendar at 6pm today and we need YOUR vote to help us win a much-neded £50,000.

You can vote up to ten times from any one number (BT landlines cost 10p per call, other providers may charge more) and the number you can ring - NOW - is:

08716 268171
Lines are open from 0900 - 2400, please help those who cannot help themselves

Monday, 10 November 2008


I am interested in who (if anyone - surely I am not doing it for nothing!) is reading this blog regularly, so I have added a Follower gadget at the top left. You can follow either anonymously or publicly - you choose and please do sign up.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Do we need Special Schools?

A recent article by Rahila Gupta in The Guardian referred to the strengthening of pupils' rights to an 'Inclusive Education'. Now here may not be the place for a discussion of the definition of 'inclusive', so let's just address her statement that more students are now entering Special Schools

On education, the convention seeks to "ensure an inclusive education system at all levels" for people with disabilities. In the UK, there is provision for both inclusive education and special schools. The campaign for inclusive education has been a long and bitter struggle. In 2001, the right of disabled children to opt for mainstream education was significantly strengthened. However, this right was not bolstered by enough support, training and other resources for mainstream schools to make inclusion a success. This has led paradoxically to an increase in the number of students entering special schools although more and more parents aspire to the inclusive ideal.

My experience suggests that the majority of parents who press for Special Schools are doing it because placing their child in a mainstream has failed them. As the article states:
"However, this right (to integration) was not bolstered by enough support, training and other resources for mainstream schools to make inclusion a success."
'Inclusion' is surely about socialisation as well as education and full socialisation is unlikely in a Special School setting. Yes, there is an argument that the most needy/disabled/difficult (choose your own adjective in such a way as to avoid the PC Police) pupils may always need a specialist setting. However who is to say that such a setting cannot be at least co-located with a mainstream? We do not segregate races any more, why would we want to segregate pupils will less ability than the norm? The challenge for mainstreams is not to get SEN pupils "out of their way" but to hold them to account for the success of all pupils in their care, not least those for whom they get additional funding.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

You can help us raise £50k to help kids with (very) special needs in Leeds

Penny Field Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre, a Special School catering for pupils with some of the most extreme/difficult/challenging (choose your adjective) needs in Leeds, will compete in ITV’s Big Lottery Fund, People’s Millions 2008 on Monday 24th November. 
To win £50,000 of Big Lottery money, they need your vote...  

The Penny Field Centre provides education for children and young people aged 2 to 19 with a range of special needs. A multi-sensory environment is the ultimate teaching tool to support and reach children, young people and adults with profound and multiple learning difficulties, emotional and behavioural difficulties, communication difficulties and physical and sensory impairment. Penny Field has made it through to the final eight groups in the Yorkshire & Humber region to compete for the fund and are the only Leeds based finalists. They will go head to head with one of the other finalists to compete for one of four £50,000 funds – so they have a 50% chance of winning. If they win, they will use the money to install a new state of the art multi-sensory studio at the centre. 

This new equipment will be used by children and young people who regularly visit the centre, as well as groups from the wider community and will massively improve the children's and young people’s quality of life".  

On Monday 24th November, ITV will publish the telephone number you need to vote for Penny Field - it will also be posted here. Penny Field will feature on Calendar Evening News at 6.00pm that evening, but you can vote from 9.00am and any telephone can be used up to 10 times to vote.  

Please make sure you help to make this difference by voting on Monday 24th November it costs you little and will make such a huge difference for others.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Change in the public sector

Change is endemic throughout life - and especially in the public sector at the moment.

Coming from a large corporate that has undergone very significant change over the 26 years I worked there - and went from pariah to paragon of excellence - I believe that the predominant public sector change model is fundamentally flawed and inevitably leads to dissatisfaction and mediocrity. 

As a change leadership professional I am often appalled at the slow pace of change in the public sector. Some of it is understandable in that the stakeholder model inevitably requires more consultation etc. However, too many consultees do not seem to understand the difference between consultation and democracy - "I can and will consult you, your views may or may not influence the decision" is very different to "Vote for A or B, I will accept the result of the ballot". Moreover, I often see a lack of understanding of the need for real involvement, that goes beyond simply holding consultation workshops; it is by really involving people that the deep issues are exposed and addressed and long-term committment to the solution achieved.

Then the decision processes are far too drawn out and I often wonder if the purpose of the processes, typically involving layers of committees, is to avoid being able to hold anyone to account.

What business has to contribute is the urgency and recognition that change can and should happen faster - if I had a philosophy in this arena (and this is a deliberate caricature) it is "make the change and sort any mess out later" (there will always be mess!), whereas the public sector seems to be "try everything we can to avoid any mess" - a forlorn hope. How much more effective could we be if we applied the Pareto Principle rather than trying to get everything 110% right before moving. By the time the public sector has consulted, considered, decided, planned, consulted about the implementation plan, etc, the goalposts have changed!

As Governors we can force the pace - don't let 'the system' slow you down. Set challenging timescales and hold people to them; the first death-knell of rapid change sounds as an unmet deadline goes rushing by. Don't let it happen to you!