Find out about all the speakers at this year's show.
Wendy has worked as a speech and language therapist for 30 years, in clinical practice, higher education and the third sector. She was professional director at The Communication Trust until 2015 where she led on a number of projects, as well as inputting on national policy and research. Wendy is currently the director of Lingo, which provides consultancy, professional development and therapists into schools and settings. She works in partnership with local and national organisations such as Cambridge University, Voice Bradford, Driver Youth Trust, I CAN and The Communication Trust on all things speech, language and communication.
Philippa has played a key role in crafting, challenging and championing education policy through her various roles in the public and voluntary sector. A trained teacher and occupational therapist with a Masters in the education of children with special needs, she began her career in mainstream and special schools, became an advisory teacher, then an inspector for the Inner London Education Authority. When she joined the Council for Disabled Children, she set up the Special Educational Consortium to create a national campaign and lobbying voice for the disabled children’s sector and set about helping to establish and develop parent partnership services (now known as Information, Advice and Support services). She has worked in Parliament during the passage of legislation; reviewed inclusion in one of our most inclusive local authorities; contributed to the development of several Codes of Practice; was seconded in to the Department for Education as SEN and disability professional adviser and currently advises on inclusive early years work in Europe and works as part of the team providing support to the DfE as strategic reform partner.
Dr Asha Patel, founder of Innovating Minds CIC, is a registered clinical psychologist with a post graduate diploma and over 10 years of clinical experience in various settings which include community, inpatient psychiatric rehabilitation, secure forensic mental health hospitals and within the education sector. She is passionate about providing specialist psychological support for young people in education, training and employment. Over the past 2 years she has been working within schools to support the implementation of a whole school approach to mental health. She has supported senior leadership teams shift from a punitive to a therapeutic approach to ensure children and young people are supported to achieve their aspirations.
Carol Allen is an education advisor for ICT and inclusion. She has taught since 1980 in both mainstream schools – primary and high, and schools for students with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. Recognising, as an English specialist, that communication lies at the heart of all effective teaching, the majority of her work has centred on creative and engaging use of technology to support communication in its widest sense. Carol works in partnership with many companies in the educational technology field as she holds a strong belief in sharing and collaboration across all participants in order to maximise the potential opportunities for her students. All work centres on easy to replicate practice which is fun, achievable and creates communication enhancement opportunities. Recent workshops and keynotes include presentations at ATIA Florida, Denmark, BETT 2017, Birmingham, Manchester, London and Australia. Carol is list owner for sld-forum, an international mailing list for practitioners and educators interested in the effective teaching and learning for those with complex barriers to learning. Currently looking at the impact of mobile technologies on inclusive practice, she is working with a zoo to produce some very different learning opportunities for the staff, school and family visitors and some of the animals themselves!
A former SEN headteacher, with significant leadership experience in local authority SEN support and advisory roles and more recently as chief executive at nasen. Jane is now director of SEND Consultancy, a new and innovative support agency for those working in SEND, specialising in leading effective review of provision for children and young people with SEND, which commissions co-productively with young people with additional needs to effect improvement at local level. Jane is married and has three children, her 15 year old son is a young man with Aspergers, learning difficulties and additional mental health needs. She is a school governor, trustee and supporter of a range of charitable trusts promoting equity and equality for children and young people with additional needs.
Colin Foley is the training director of the ADHD Foundation, the largest patient-led service of its kind in the UK. The ADHD Foundation is one of only three organisations in the UK to offer a cradle to grave multi-modal service for families and adults affected by ADHD, offering psychoeducative and psychosocial interventions, skills training for families and young people and CBT, counselling, stress reduction and behaviour support programmes. Colin leads the training department and delivers courses on ADHD, mental health and other neurodevelopmental conditions across the UK and directly to schools. After a 25-year teaching career in the secondary sector up to senior leadership level, Colin was the first specialist leader in education to be appointed in his area and led the Outstanding Teacher Programme and the Improving Teaching programme for the National College in St Helens and Knowsley. Colin’s work for the ADHD Foundation is grounded in empowering teachers to deliver outstanding outcomes for children and young people with ADHD through raising awareness of the specific symptomology of the condition and through providing practical classroom strategies that every teacher can use at all key stages.
Joanna Grace is an international sensory engagement and inclusion specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects. Consistently rated as outstanding by Ofsted, Joanna has taught in mainstream and special school settings, connecting with pupils of all ages and abilities. Joanna has also supported adult care teams and families caring for loved ones at home. Joanna has created educational resources for a number of notable organisations including Amnesty International, Oxfam and the Booktrust. She has also supported public settings, small and large, with their ambitions to be more inclusive. To inform her work Joanna draws on her own experience from her private and professional life as well as taking in all the information she can from the research archives. Joanna's private life includes family members with profound disabilities and time spent as a registered foster carer for children with profound disabilities. Joanna's book 'Sensory Stories' for children and teens sells globally, her second 'Sensory-being for Sensory Beings' came out in 2017 to a great reception. She has a further five books due for publication within the next two years, including four children's books. In all of her work Joanna seeks to contribute to a future where people are understood in spite of their differences. Joanna is a big fan of social media and is always happy to connect with people via Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin
Laxmi Patel, an experienced special educational needs solicitor, heads Boyes Turner’s dedicated education team. The expert team work closely with parents, schools, local authorities and case managers to ensure that children and young people with SEN receive the support they need. Laxmi is recognised as a SEN expert and is invited regularly to share advice and guidance at events and seminars. She is a member of the Law Society and an active committee member of the Education Law Association (ELAS), for whom she leads talks on the SEN special interest group.
Samantha Garner is an education consultant in SEN and mental health. She is a renowned presenter nationally and internationally. She is often called compared to Victoria Wood and Dawn French and is lauded for her ability to entertain as well as to provide excellent content.
Sherann Hillman MBE is head of family services Seashell Trust and chair of the PIPStockport Parent Carer Forum. Sherann is the parent of 3 young people with SEN, and has over 20 years of experience of supporting families with children and young people with SEND. Sherann was previously co-chair and NW representative of NNPCF and instrumental in the Children & Families Act and relevant legislation embedding participation of parent carers. She is also a representative of parent carers on several local, regional, and national work streams including the Rochford Review and is passionate about ensuring co-production happens with children, young people, and their parent carers in all the services and support they receive.
Beverley has over 17 years’ senior management experience of the education sector, focusing on special educational needs and disability (SEND). She is responsible for the Tes SEN Show’s content strategy and structure across all 42 seminars, parent and carer forum presentations and exhibitor workshops. Beverley is passionate about raising awareness of SEN and has a wealth of knowledge and experience of the SEN sector. As a member of the senior leadership team at nasen for over 10 years, Beverley has worked alongside colleagues at the DfE leading the development of the SEND Gateway, which was launched in 2014, managed the delivery of professional development nationally to meet the needs of a variety of education settings and supported the work of Council for Disabled Children on government funded projects. She has worked with the Department for International Trade (DIT) to promote UK SEN expertise abroad and has been a member of the organising committee of the quinquennial Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress (ISEC) Glasgow 2005, Belfast 2010 and Portugal 2015. Beverley is SEN Governor of a local primary school in inner city Birmingham and mum to a wonderful young man who inspires her to keep learning.
Since April 2010, André has worked as the DfE SEN and Disability professional advisor, contributing to a range of policy developments, in particular the Children and Families Act. André has been a teacher and educational psychologist and held a number of practitioner and leadership roles in local authorities. He was a regional director in the National SEN Adviser team, and was an adviser to the Lamb Inquiry into parental confidence.
Professor Sonia Blandford is one of the country’s foremost experts on social mobility and author of the influential publication: ‘Born to Fail? Social Mobility, A Working Class View’. Founder and CEO of the award-winning education charity, Achievement for All, Sonia is also visiting professor of education at UCL Institute of Education. She has held leadership positions in schools, higher education and charities including director of research and leadership at Teach First, professor of educational leadership and innovation at the University of Warwick, where she now holds an Honorary Professorship and pro-vice chancellor and dean of education at Canterbury Christ Church University. She is currently a member of the Cornwall College Board, Department for Education Pupil Premium Panel, and chair of ‘Learn’ for The Prince’s Trust 2030 Task Force. Sonia is editor of the Teaching Times Every Child journal and author of 250 articles and books written for teachers, leaders, parents, carers, children and young people. Follow Sonia on Twitter at @SoniaAFA3AS
Maxine Burns is a Speech and Language Advisor for I CAN, the national children’s communication charity, and The Communication Trust, a consortium of over 50 organisations representing this sector. A Speech and Language Therapist by background, she has significant experience of working at both practitioner and leadership levels with primary and secondary aged pupils in mainstream, alternative education and specialist settings. Particularly interested in older children and young people, she authored I CAN’s discussion paper, Skills for Work, Skills for Life. She led the pilot and launch of both I CAN’s secondary programmes, Secondary Talk and later, Talk about Talk Secondary. Current strands of work include piloting a Year 7 targeted intervention and, through the DfE funded EYSEND Partnership project, developing more robust and effective pathways for identifying and supporting young children with speech, language and communication needs.
Founder of Spotlight Education Support and Co-Director of Curriculum Support at Priestnall School www.spotlighteducationsupport.com Liz has worked in education for 20 years. She is currently Co-Director of Curriculum Support at Priestnall School in Stockport and is also the Founder of Spotlight Education Support, an organisation which provides SEND training and consultancy for schools nationally. Liz sees herself, first and foremost, as a frontline practitioner having worked in SEND leadership roles in a range of school settings including primary, secondary and across the state and independent sectors. As well as being an experienced SENCO, Liz is also an accredited Advanced Skills Teacher of English and SEND and has held pastoral and curriculum leadership positions. Liz is passionate about all things education but has particular expertise in SEND change management, SEND CPD, and curriculum design.
Natalie is an Independent Education Consultant, specialising in SEND and school improvement. She develops and delivers a wide range of training and support to schools. Natalie is an Associate Consultant for nasen, and a consultant governor for a large 4-18 school in Dubai. She is also a trustee of Learn-AT multi-academy trust in the East Midlands and supports the Whole School SEND review process across schools and MATs. She regularly contributes to online SEN articles and webinars and is the author of The Perfect SENCO and The Teacher’s Guide to SEN. Twitter: @NataliePacker
Cathal has worked in education for over 25 years, holding numerous senior positions in mainstream schools before becoming the founding head teacher of an independent SEBD primary school. He subsequently became Director of Education for a wider group of SEND schools before taking the role of national Director of Day Schools. He has co-founded a Multi academy trust as COO and is currently the Strategic Director for Leadership and School Improvement at Washwood Heath MAT. He regularly gets invited to speak at regional and national conferences, deliver training as an educational consultant and contribute articles to a range of educational publications . He is an associate education expert for The Key website for school leaders and has collaborated with many organisations including English Heritage to produce a staff training video on working with SEND pupils. He has experience in a wide range of governance roles including as part of an IEB and Chair of multiple Governing bodies. Cathal is one of the founding member of the W. Mids SEND forum and is an active participant in the W Mids SEMH schools group. He is particularly interest in using mental health and well-being to underpin school improvement, disseminating best practice by drawing on health education and social care protocols to drive systemic improvements for all. Most recently he has acted as education lead for Mindful, an innovative online counselling service to support children, their families and schools in times of difficulty.
Terri Cawser has worked in the field of Special Educational Needs and English as an Additional Language for a number of years. Terri began her career in a large inner-city Birmingham school, gaining extensive experience of working with pupils learning English as an Additional Language and pupils with special educational needs, particularly in the area of emotional, social and mental health difficulties. Terri’s current role is Assistant Service Lead for Pupil and School Support, a Birmingham Local Authority SEN team who focus on providing strategic support to SENCos as well as being specialists in the area of cognition and learning. In this role, Terri has worked in schools across Birmingham and has led the development of tools and resources to support schools to develop, plan and monitor their SEN provision. Terri’s current position includes leading the team in supporting 400 schools in the city to meet the needs of pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and includes citywide EAL network opportunities and an annual EAL conference.
Dr Neelam Parmar is an award-winning professional, international researcher, author, thought leader and speaker on effective technology, pedagogy and curriculum integration within education. Neelam regularly presents as a keynote speaker around the UK and internationally on the role of EdTech in education, providing strategy, roadmaps and CPD programmes for blended and flipped learning approaches. She currently works as Director of E-Learning at Ashford School and is the author of the Digital Literacy in the Primary series and Digital Parenting book. Neelam has supported schools, local councils, and NGO’s and advises organisations how best to develop their digital strategies. She has also won awards for Excellence in E-Learning, shortlisted for Best use of Technology with TES and Best in Digital Learning with GESS Education Awards.
Jon has been a qualified speech and language therapist (SLT) for over 14 years. He is currently working as a member of I CAN’s Advisory team made up of specialist teachers and speech and language therapists. Jon’s work within I CAN includes the delivery of specialist provision packages for services working with children with severe to profound speech, language and communication needs. He helped to develop the licensing scheme for the launch of I CAN’s award nominated intervention, Talk Boost and subsequently worked with the evaluation team on the development and roll out of I CAN’s early years intervention, Early Talk Boost. He delivers regular training for I CAN’s network of licensed tutors. Jon has worked on I CAN’s Enquiry Service for six years. This involves providing telephone support to parents and school staff who have concerns regarding children’s speech, language and communication. Jon has delivered many live Q&A sessions through Facebook, including one for MENCAP and regularly writes a blog for PACEY.
Julie Dockrell is Professor of Psychology and Special Needs at the UCL, Institute of Education and qualified as both a clinical and educational psychologist. Her research interests are in patterns of language development and the ways in which oral language skills impact on children's learning, interaction and attainments. A central theme in this research has been the application of evidence based research to support children’s learning. She has published in a wide range of journals and written books and book chapters on language development and difficulties. She was the previous editor of the British Journal of Educational Psychology, associate editor for JSLHR and Learning and Instruction. She was a co-director of the Better Communication Research Programme.
Gill Brackenbury is the Director for the Centre for Inclusive education and has developed a wide range of courses and professional development activities for schools and teachers. Gill has over 30 years teaching experience and As Director of the UCL Centre for Inclusive Education has led on the strategic direction of different knowledge mobilisation programmes, such as Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (MITA) and Supporting Spoken Language in the Classroom (SSLiC). She leads and teaches on the SpLD (dyslexia) MA, a new International Leadership in Inclusive Education MA and a MA in Special and Inclusive Education in Cairo, Egypt.
Rosie has worked in education for many years both in the UK and abroad. Originally a primary class teacher, Rosie developed her passion for supporting children and young people with SEND through subsequent roles as SENCo and Deputy Headteacher in two schools. She currently works for Birmingham Local Authority as Assistant Service Lead for Pupil and School Support, a SEND advisory service that supports 400 schools with children with cognition and learning needs. Within the service, Rosie is project lead in the areas of dyslexia, SLCN and school improvement in relation to SEND. Rosie is a recognised lecturer at the University of Birmingham and teaches on the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination.
Gemma Clarke has been a speech and language therapist for 16 years and has been at the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering (MPC) for the past 10. Gemma works with children and young people who stammer and their parents, and with adults who stammer. Before working at MPC she worked in a specialist language unit and held an Early Years clinic case-load where she developed her skills in working with children with ASD and children who stammer. Her current caseload at MPC includes clients with a range of additional and complex needs including learning disability, Downs Syndrome and ASD. She is passionate about working holistically with clients; ensuring therapy is tailored to the specific needs of the child or young person and their family. Gemma is part of the MPC teaching team and teaches a range of MPC courses including Palin Parent Child Interaction (PCI) Therapy; Working with Primary School Aged Children; and Working with Secondary School aged Students. Gemma lectures in fluency disorders at University College London and is also responsible for delivering the Palin PCI Accreditation programme. She supports MPC colleagues and external SLTs through clinical supervision. Gemma has trained in a range of psychological approaches, including Solution Focused Brief Therapy, and is a master practitioner and trainer in Neurolinguistic Programming. She supports the team to develop their presentation skills. Gemma is involved in small-scale research projects and recently conducted a study into the use of telehealth for assessment and therapy at the MPC.
Dr Jamie Galpin is a chartered Developmental Psychologist who has been working with children and young people with SEN for the past 15 years. Whilst working, both as an SEN teaching assistant and then as an SEN teacher, he completed his Master’s degree in Child Development. His interest in the practical applications of research then led him to complete a Master’s in Research in Education. Jamie went on to complete his PhD in Developmental Psychology where his research focus was on emotion in children’s drawings and the relationship between language and drawing. His current research focuses on practical, effective interventions for pupils with SEND particularly interventions and support for autistic pupils in school settings – the development of practice-based evidence. He has a specific interest in supporting minimally verbal pupils with complex needs. Within this the relationship between sensory differences, anxiety and managing uncertainty is an especial focus.
Amanda is determined to raise awareness of Neurodiversity and to showcase the of individuals and maximise their talents. She wears several hats:she has personal reasons for her passion as a parent of neurodiverse children; a professional interest and has a chair in developmental disorders at University of South Wales. She has a clinical interest as a GP alongside founding The Dyscovery Centre, a specialist centre for children and adults with developmental disorders, in 1997. Amanda is also the CEO of DO-IT Solutions (www.doitprofiler.com) and has developed a computer modular screening and assessment system using a bio-psychosocial model to support those who are neurodiverse to show case their talents, and minimise any challenges and helping organisations such as apprenticeship providers, employment organisations and in prisons to have better and more informed conversations. She has delivered extensive training relating to mental health and neurodiversity to more than 100,000 people nationally and internationally and to large scale organisations and SMEs. She also is the chair of the UK umbrella organisation for movement difficulties(www.movementmatters.uk.org). She sat on the Hidden Impairment National Group and helped develop the site www.neurodiversityemployment.org and also was on the Autism Strategy Group for DWP. Amanda’s has published 8 books in the field of neurodiversity, which have been translated into many languages and has many peer reviewed papers in the field and is active on Linkedin with more than 26,000 followers regularly posting her Neurodiversity101 series.
Dean Beadle has toured the UK for ten years sharing his experiences of being autistic. In recent years he has also spoken across Europe as well as undertaking four seminar tours of Australia and New Zealand. Through his humorous and insightful speeches Dean outlines his positive outlook on being autistic. In 2011 Dean's work was brought to a wider audience, as a clip of one of his speeches was viewed across the world on Youtube. He is also an experienced journalist, having been published in local, national and international publications. Between 2008 and 2011 he worked freelance for Greenwich Time Newspaper, as both a features writer and columnist. For eighteen months, Dean edited the Network Autism 'Autism in Practice' newsletter which had subscribers in over 90 countries. He has also written for The Guardian, Londonpaper, News Shopper and NAS Communication magazine. Between 2012 and 2014 Dean sat on the judging panel for the NAS Professionals Awards. Dean has co-chaired the NAS Professionals Conference and also co-hosted the Autism Uncut Film Awards at BAFTA. An interview with Dean is featured as a key resource in the Autism Education Trust training programme which has just celebrated training 100,000 schools staff. Dean is also a singer and performs at charity balls and various events nationwide. Dean is honorary president of APCymru- an autistic led parent charity in Cardiff and is also patron of SPACE, a parent led charity in Hertfordshire, and ONE to ONE Enfield, a charity providing meaningful activities for LD/autistic adults. twitter: @deanbeadleuk
Nicola is an international educational consultant, teacher and author with over twenty years experience working in a variety of early years, primary and secondary settings, including mainstream and special needs schools. During this time she has developed a reputation for successfully managing the most challenging classes and pupils as well as motivating and inspiring staff to help implement change and ensure sustainability. Consequently, she now runs training courses for schools/parents and is often invited to speak at key conferences on mindsets, behaviour change, mental health and wellbeing, resilience and effective ways of engaging families. She is a regular speaker at the TES and The National Education show, NASUWT conferences and BBC Radio. Nicola is also an International Values Education (IVET) approved trainer, an NLP Master Practitioner.
Natasha Devon MBE is an activist & author who visits an average of three schools every week throughout the U.K. delivering talks and conducting research on mental health, body image and gender equality. She was briefly the government’s mental health champion, but her role was controversially axed in 2016 after she was publicly critical of government education and austerity policy. She has a weekly column in the TES & her bestselling book ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental’ was published in May 2018 by Bluebird at Pan Macmillan.
Chris is Driver Youth Trust’s Chief Executive having started his career training as an occupational psychologist. His experience since encompasses research, policy, working as a practitioner and advising other education or policy bodies e.g. Hastings OA Literacy Working Group. As lead author of the SEND Governance Review Guide he is delivering SEND governance training across the country. Aside from his DYT role, Chris is Chair of Governors at an infant school in Berkshire, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the British Psychological Society and sits on the Executive Board of the Division of Occupational Psychology.
As Director of Operations at Driver Youth Trust, Karen is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Trust. Karen’s background is in social research which has been in the education sector for over ten years. Most recently, she was Head of Impact at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and Director of the Centre for Education Economics (CfEE). She is passionate about increasing and communicating the use of evidence in education to positively impact the lives of young people, and so founded the Twitter chat #UKEdResChat. Karen is also a school governor, trustee of Parentkind, and mum of two.
Kate Bradley is an occupational therapist & specialist SEN leader and holds a Masters in Special and Inclusive Education. She has a number of years experience in both specialist and mainstream schools and has worked closely with local authorities in looking at their strategic planning for autism. She strongly believes in inclusive practice, and sees this as children being in the best setting to meet their needs with staff trained appropriately. In her consulting work she has worked with a premier league football club, is an associate tutor at UCL and has created and delivered bespoke training packages for a wide variety of audiences. Kate regularly contributes to a number of publications and is the co-author of the 101 Inclusive & SEN Lesson series of books published by Jessica Kingsley Publishing.
After initially qualifying with a health sector degree as a Speech and Language Therapist, Kate has significant experience in programme delivery, development of materials and close work with practitioners and local authorities. Among other programmes, Kate designed and delivered the nationally successful Early Language Development Programme (impacting on 16 000 practitioners and over 150 000 families), as well as developing the ‘Sentence Trouble’ programme focusing on the impact of speech, language and communication needs in the Youth Justice arena. Kate has worked in speech and language support and service development for much of her career, recently having worked as a Director for the Children’s Communication Charity, I CAN. Kate now provides Consultancy work, as well as being Professional Lead for the EYSEND Partnership project focusing on SLCN in settings.
Chris Rees is the Principal Officer for Education and Equalities at the Council for Disabled Children (CDC). He has been based at CDC for over 5 years, working on a range of programmes including the IASS Network, the Special Educational Consortium and the Early Years SEND Partnership. In over 20 years’ experience working in the voluntary sector, Chris has also delivered a national school exclusion project for Save the Children, worked on youth justice projects in Tajikistan and provided pedagogy support among secondary school teachers in Ethiopia. Chris has a son with Down’s syndrome, and is passionate about supporting children with SEND achieve their aspirations.
Stephen Parsons is a Speech and Language Therapist, trainer and author of practical language development resources for teachers and Speech and Language Therapists. Stephen graduated in Speech Pathology from Flinders University in Australia, before attaining an MSc in Speech and Language Therapy from City University, London in 2000. From 1996-2017 Stephen worked as a Speech and Language Therapy Service Manager in Hackney and the City of London. He currently serves as Chair of NAPLIC, the association for professionals working with children and young people with developmental language disorder. He is active on Twitter at @WordAware
Rachael McMullen has over ten years’ experience as the SENCO at a specialist school for children and young people with dyslexia. Her current role involves managing the BDA Quality Mark for schools and organisations, and the BDA Helpline which receives thousands of calls and emails each year. She is on the BDA Accreditation Board which accredits universities and other course providers to provide training for specialist teachers to achieve Associate Membership of the BDA (AMBDA) and Approved Teacher Status (ATS).
Julie is a well established independent consultant, speaker and trainer specialising in inclusion in the early years and understanding the importance of early child development on later outcomes, including supporting young children with neurodevelopmental differences. Julie delivers training to early years SENCO’s on a range of topics. She is well known and highly regarded keynote speaker and facilitates workshops across the country. Julie also works for a range of national organisations such as nasen, British Association of Early Education, Council for Disabled Children, Action for Children. Julie is also a lead associate for KCA Training, delivering training and consultancy in relation to social and emotional well- being, which focuses on understanding the importance of attachment, trauma and resilience through out the life time.
Ruth Fidler is an Education Consultant specialising in complex autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), interactive approaches and emotional well being. She worked at an all age non-maintained special school for 94 pupils across the autism spectrum for 22 years until 2014 and has worked independently since then. Ruth worked within the school promoting interactive approaches and emotional well being for pupils with complex autism. She also led an outreach pilot project working with other agencies to meet the needs of children and young people currently unable to attend school. She has experience of using music to promote interaction. As well as providing training, she regularly observes and monitors teaching and learning supporting staff to embed and refine good autism and SEND practice. She provides training and consultancy for a variety of schools and parents and works all over the UK and with organisations including the Autism Education Trust, the National Autistic Society the PDA Society. She is a member of the national Autism in Women and Girls Forum and the National PDA development group.
Dr Adam Boddison is the Chief Executive for nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) with responsibility for strategic direction and operational delivery across the full breadth of nasen’s activity. He is also the Chair of the Whole School SEND consortium, which is leading on the delivery of the government’s SEND Schools’ Workforce contract. Adam is a National Leader of Governance, Chair and Vice-Chair of two Local Authority primary schools and a Trustee at two Multi-Academy Trusts, which span primary, secondary and specialist settings. Adam is a Trustee of the Potential Trust, a member of the National SEND Forum and a Fellow of the RSA. Prior to this, Adam held a number of senior education roles including Director of the Centre for Professional Education at the University of Warwick and Academic Principal for IGGY (a global educational social network for gifted teenagers). He has published a range of mathematics books and is a qualified clinical hypnotherapist.
Bob has over 30 years’ experience in the voluntary sector in England and internationally. Prior to his appointment at I CAN, he was Chief Executive of Essex Community Foundation and Chief Executive of The Children’s Society. Internationally, Bob started his career as a secondary school teacher in Zaïre, followed by posts as Country Director for Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) in Chad and Country Director for ActionAid in Bangladesh. He settled with his family in England in 1994. Bob has served on several national boards supporting children and young people, including The Youth Justice Board, the Social Work Task Force, the Children’s Workforce Development Council and as Chairman of Children England. He received a CBE for services to children in 2012.
Ben has led significant national research projects in the fields of special educational needs, inclusion and alternative provision, children’s services and early help, and support for school improvement. He has extensive experience and a successful track-record of supporting local areas to review services and provision, of developing strategies and building capacity to implement new approaches. Most recently, Ben has led major national research projects on alternative provision and inclusion for the Department for Education, and on developing and sustaining effective local SEND support and services within local areas and on the pressures and the gap in funding for young people with high needs for the Local Government Association. Ben has worked and is currently working with several local areas to help them to review current approaches and develop strategic approaches to supporting inclusion, offering effective alternative provision and delivering services for children and young people with high needs, special educational needs or disability. Ben has been a member of the Department for Education’s expert groups on high needs funding in England, and has supported the development of the additional learning needs reform programme in Wales. Ben has also led national research and local reviews on supporting school improvement, children’s services and early help. Before joining Isos, Ben worked for the Department for Education, where he was one of the authors of the 2011 green paper on SEN and disability, and led reforms of the pupil premium and high-needs funding.
Nick Whittaker is one of Her Majesty's Inspectors. He is a qualified teacher and, prior to joining Ofsted, was the executive headteacher of two all-age special schools for children and young people who have severe learning difficulties and complex needs. Nick has also worked as a senior local authority adviser and school improvement partner.
Nigel Armitage is in his late 50’s and the father of a 14-year-old son who has special needs and several physical disabilities. Nigel has had an interesting life. Starting out as a lawyer, he got an MBA in his early 30’s and changed career to work in legal publishing and involved in running Europe’s first online service for lawyers. He was then headhunted to join Doctors.net.uk. Joining the company from day one, the service is now the largest professional network of UK doctors with in excess of 200,000 members. In his early 40’s Nigel’s son was born – changing life for the entire family. Career had to take a back seat. Diagnosis after diagnosis followed over the years and Nigel, like all good parents, took a great interest in his son’s many medical conditions – spending hours “Googling” to decipher medical terminology, find information on what the future might hold for his son, and more. Much to his surprise, Nigel was unable to find a “one-stop shop” website which carried all the information he sought in one place – so, after much deliberation and more hours of research, in December 2018 Nigel launched his own site – with the aim that “Special Needs Today: by parents, for parents” will ultimately become that one-stop shop! If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Nigel also embarked on a long-time ambition to finish his academic studies and is currently studying part-time for a PhD in Law – researching the treatment of people with learning disabilities in the criminal justice system.
Sarah Stones is a Motivation Specialist who is passionate about helping people to shine. She combines her knowledge of intrinsic motivation and positive psychology with a practical, solutions-focused approach. Sarah understands the many challenges faced by people with disabilities, as she has always lived with a disability. This has never stopped her doing anything she has wanted and been motivated to do and achieve. She set up Plain Sailing Motivation when she realised life is too short not to be doing what you want to do, and she set out to help others to shine. Sarah works closely with schools, organisations and parents/guardians to support young people. She has a special interest in supporting disadvantaged young people and those with special educational needs.
Sarah-Jane Critchley is passionate about helping autistic people, their families, friends and supporters live happier lives of their own choosing. She is the internationally recognised author of ‘A Different Joy: The Parents’ Guide to Living Better with Autism, Dyslexia, ADHD and More...’. and contributor to two titles on autism and girls. She wrote an ‘Introduction to Autism’ for AC Education to support adoptive and foster parents. She is an international keynote speaker. For over 10 years (2008-2018), Sarah-Jane managed the Autism Education Trust working to improve educational provision for young people with autism. She was instrumental in the development, monitoring and management of the training programme that reached over 195,000 education-based staff in the UK and adapting the AET’s highly successful training programme to meet the local context in Italy and Greece. She worked with stakeholders to produce guidance on exam accommodations and exclusions. Sarah-Jane holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) specialising in the management of change from London’s City University. She is a mother to two fantastically amazing autistic teenagers (a late-diagnosed girl and a boy) and is married to an autistic husband.