A very warm welcome to Simon Knight!
We are delighted to announce the appointment of Simon Knight as Director of Whole School SEND!
Simon was formerly Director of Education at the National Education Trust and before that Deputy Headteacher in a school for children between 2 and 19 with Severe or Profound Learing Disabilities.
Simon sat on the Whole School SEND steering group last year and led on the development of the SEND Reflection Framework, in partnership with the National Education Trust. We are very excited about the project, which will offer a framework for the evaluation of SEND provision on a individual classroom level. It is set to be launched later this year - watch this space!
Below you can read a short interview with Simon, looking at his journey so far, hopes for the future and burgeoning passion for triathlon!
What made you want to work in SEND?
When I was growing up my mum worked as a TA in a special school and rather than walk home I’d wait for her to finish work to get a lift. This introduced me to children with learning disabilities and when after university I wasn’t sure what to do I worked in the school as a TA for a year and by the end of the first term I was hooked.
One of the challenges that the sector faces currently is better representation of SEND in the Government’s recruitment drives so that SEND and Special Schools in particular are seen as being a worthwhile career path.
What have been your best moments working in education?
Overall, it has been the residential visits. For some of the children it has been the first time that they have been away from home and they can often be experiencing things like surfing or climbing for the first time. The bond you create during these times is incredible and whilst they are extraordinarily hard work, the memories they create are amazing.
The forecasts for education seem stormy – what are your hopes for the sector and what do you think we should be focusing on most?
I’m always hopeful, because I meet so many extraordinary people within education and the third sector with incredible commitment towards making the world a better place. However, one thing that we need to be focussing on increasingly closely is how to ensure that the potential which is often built within young people with SEND during their education has a tangible impact on their quality of life. Currently I feel that whilst we have some exceptional schools providing an exceptional education, what happens beyond 19 can be hugely disappointing for many young people. Finding effective ways to bring society together to support better life outcomes for those with SEND is essential.
You’ve written for TES and elsewhere, and you’re a frequent tweeter – why do you think it’s important for education specialists to use these channels?
From my point of view, it is because of the imbalance in educational priorities that often sees SEND as being on the periphery of things. By using social and traditional media to raise awareness it can help ensure that SEND is part of the conversation. It has been interesting to see the recent changes to the coverage of SEND with Schools Week and TES both making a major contribution to raising the profile of this often overlooked aspect of education.
You led on the development of the Send Reflection Framework for WSS last year - it is about to be launched. What are your hopes for this work?
I really hope that this helps schools and the teachers within them to embrace the fact that it is OK not to have all the answers and that through careful reflection on what is working well and what can be improved children with SEND will be able get a better deal.
One of the key issues around SEND is that teachers are not always given enough guidance and support about how to meet need within the classroom and yet we still hold them highly accountable for the outcomes. Hopefully, this resource will provide a supportive framework that goes some way towards ensuring that teacher get what they need so that they can provide children what they require.
What do you do to unwind?
As part of my burgeoning midlife crisis I compete in Triathlons, which has mainly involved spending more money than I can afford on a bike that is too good for me, but it keeps the work life balance in good order and there is a real sense of achievement when you complete a particularly long or interesting event.