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The BIG Idea for SEND Project: Ania Hildrey – Headteacher, Abbot’s Lea School in Liverpool

We initially engaged Sea View Trust to conduct an SEND Review of Abbot’s Lea School after it was moved from Outstanding to RI by Ofsted. The collaboration on that review, with the Trust’s leaders has inspired our confidence in their educational leadership expertise. It was evident that the colleagues from the Sea View Trust were evidence, and inquiry-focused, with a highly methodical approach to their analysis of our school’s vision, philosophy of education and operational practices. Every step of the way, that systemic approach was very well-balanced with pragmatic, realistic and truly child-focused mindset of the leaders in charge.

Therefore, when some months later, an opportunity arose to collaborate on a research project, I knew that we would be compatible and “like-minded” in our approach to finding new ways of developing and innovating special educational practice.

The project, The BIG Idea for SEND, has not disappointed! In fact, whilst initially, we were unsure whether we might be pitching too high, or too low in our specific proposal, we needn’t have worried, as the Trust, in collaboration with the Research School, has planned a number of sessions for us to explore our own idea and also to moderate our approaches with others taking part.

A number of sessions to plan, prepare, fine-tune and sharpen our focus and research methods, were further enriched by relevant and well-targeted CPD and personalised coaching sessions.

Whilst we are still in the middle of the project work, it is, very genuinely, the most transformative piece of work we have undertaken as a school in the past 7 years of my headship of it, and yet, the work involved seems….a breeze! It is not that it is easy – far from it – but, it is certainly not adding workload to the day job, instead, helping us in making sure we gather key intelligence, data and evidence of the work we had put in place to improve our school by piloting a new, innovative way of working.

We are excited about the next phase of the project and we know that, if there ever is an option of working on another idea (big idea in SEND, or other), we would be very keen to partner with the Sea View Trust and the Research School again.