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Hilton Leicester

13th March 2024


2024 Speakers

Natalie Packer
Forum Strategy Associate, Author, SEND and School Improvement Consultant
Natalie is an Independent Education Consultant, specialising in SEND and school improvement. She develops and delivers a wide range of training and support, including SEND reviews, to schools and multi-academy trusts (MATs). She works with several MATs to support their strategic development of SEND and is a trustee of Learn-AT multi-academy trust in Leicestershire. She is an associate for several national organisations including Nasen, Whole Education, Forum Strategy and Leadership Matters. Natalie regularly writes online articles for Optimus and The Key for School Leaders and is the author of The Perfect SENCO and The Teacher’s Guide to SEN.

Natalie appears at the conference as a Forum Strategy Associate.
Ginny Bootman
SENDCo, Advocate and Author: Independent Thinking On Being a SENDCo
Ginny is an educator with over 25 years in education as a classroom practitioner, SENDCO and Headteacher. She is passionate about the impact of relationships within education, particularly for those working with children with additional needs, and is determined to improve understanding of the pivotal role that these relationships play within the school environment. Ginny is the author of ' Independent Thinking on Being a SENDCO'.
Dr Barbara Sandland
University of Birmingham
Barbara is a post-doctoral researcher currently exploring the use of reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent PhD students at the University of Birmingham. As a neurodivergent individual and mother to neurodiverse children she brings personal insight, alongside critical research, to her work. Barbara's background is as a qualified secondary school teacher, with many years’ experience as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator.
Sarah Johnson
Phoenix Education Consultancy
Sarah, the author of the books 'All About SEMH' guides for primary and secondary teachers, and "Behaving Together: A Teacher's Guide to Nurturing Behavior," brings a wealth of practical insights based on her extensive experiences. Her books are just one facet of her multifaceted career.

In her roles as a teacher and senior leader, Sarah has worked across a broad spectrum of educational settings, including primary and secondary schools, psychiatric in-patient services, pupil referral units, hospitals, and specialised resource provisions for children with speech, communication, and language needs.

Sarah's influence extends far beyond the classroom. She is a sought-after keynote speaker, presenting her strategic insights at both international and national levels. Her speeches are marked by a deep understanding of the complexities of education and an unwavering dedication to school and service improvement. As a conference chair, she plays a pivotal role in shaping the discourse surrounding education, further cementing her reputation as a visionary leader.

In the educational sector, Sarah occupies several strategic positions. As a member of the Department for Education's Alternative Provision stakeholder group, she helps shape policy decisions that affect the future of education. Her role as President of PRUsAP, a national organisation, underscores her dedication to improving educational provision and outcomes for pupils in Alternative Provision settings.
Olly Dean
Fusion SEND Hub
Olly is the Strategic Lead of Fusion SEND Hub. Fusion SEND Hub are a traded SEND consultancy and support service for Sheffield and surrounding regions. We are a team of 'Consultant Teachers in SEND' with a wide range of specialisms and experience, based at Talbot Specialist School in the south of the city. We work with schools and other partners to help secure the best outcomes for children and young people with SEND. We do this by reviewing school practice, identifying needs, providing targeted advice and advancing the knowledge and confidence of adults through training, coaching and strategic work. Our foundation values are Advocacy, Responsiveness, Collaboration and Specialism.
Mark Vickers
CEO, Olive Academies Trust
Mark’s work in education is rooted in his belief that schools have the potential to break historic cycles of social disadvantage and to prevent the marginalisation of vulnerable young people. Mark has been a headteacher of a secondary school, an Ofsted inspector, a school leadership consultant and was a founding trustee of the PSHE Association. He continues to support numerous mainstream schools, PRUs and alternative providers across the country, offering strategic advice to help them secure rapid and sustained improvement.

Mark is Chair of The National MAT CEO Network for Alternative Provision and SEND. He is also one of the founding members of the Suffolk CEO Network. Both these forums were established with Mark’s support to help the sharing of ideas, innovations and best practice. Mark’s determined approach to improving alternative provision for vulnerable young people in England is linked to this partnership work – successfully bringing together alternative provision with mainstream schools and engaging local authority, DfE and voluntary sector leaders to improve the life chances of some of the most vulnerable children in our country’s education system.

In 2021 Mark was awarded an MBE in The Queen’s New Year Honours List for his services to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
Alasdaire Duerden
Head of SEND and AP Local Implementation Unit, DFE
Alasdaire Duerden has been a civil servant for over 30 years, working across a variety of policy and delivery areas in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education. Having worked on the SEND and AP Green Paper – specifically developing the reforms for Alternative Provision - he now heads up the Local Implementation Unit within the SEND and AP Directorate, leading the delivery of the Change Programme.
Alasdaire is a veteran of the 2014 reforms, having been part of the team that developed the SEND Green Paper, worked on the production of the subsequent policy response, and then helped develop and take the legislation through Parliament. Amongst other things, he is one of the architects of Education, Health and Care Plans and designed and set up Supported Internships. Subsequently spending over two years on secondment to Sheffield City Council to help implement the 2014 reforms, he has a strong insight into the development of policy from initial thinking right through to on-the-ground delivery.
Sarah Baker
CEO, TEAM Education Trust
Sarah is the founder and CEO of TEAM Education Trust. She has successfully supported the growth of the Trust which still holds true to the founding statement – Together Everyone Achieves More, TEAM.
Sarah has experience of working for a large Multi Academy Trust operating across 30+ schools across the East Midlands where she held Trust responsibility for Inclusion.

Sarah holds the National Professional Qualification for Executive Leaders and is a qualified facilitator for coaching, specialising in educational leadership.

Sarah has experience of leading whole school and Local Authority training and development programmes at a local and regional level, with findings being reported into the DfE around SEND and Inclusion. Additionally, Sarah has lectured on the National SENDCo Award and is a facilitator for NPQs.
Sarah sits on several Executive Boards and national strategic networks, including Schools Forum representative for Derbyshire. More recently she is an Executive for the AP/SEND national network.
Sarah Malam
CEO, Triumph Multi Academy Trust
Sarah has been a senior leader in education for over 25 years working in large primary schools in areas of significant deprivation and challenge, championing both pupils and staff to develop, grow and achieve. She is driven to ensure that every child gets the very best education possible so that they achieve both personal and academic success in order to have the confidence and resilience to pursue a future of opportunities. She ensures that the people she works with get a rich variety of professional opportunities to enable them to feel professionally fulfilled. Sarah created Triumph Trust, a MAT, in 2017 with that purpose, to pursue an agenda of equity for all.
Garry Freeman
Education Consultant
Garry is an independent SEND Consultant, with 43 years of previous teaching and leadership experience in secondary and special schools throughout West Yorkshire and Lancashire. He has since before the reforms of 2014 specialised in the application and practicalities of SEND law and funding in England.

Garry is, and has been, instrumental in shaping SEND provision across England as a Whole-School SEND Reviewer, a National SEND System Leader and project lead for local authority improvement support. He has been an Associate Consultant for Nasen and Chair of their 0-11 Advisory Group. He is a highly skilled, driven and committed SEND leader, supporting schools, trusts and local authorities in a wide range of educational improvement priorities, focusing on caring, positive leadership and the management of change. He has written extensively for a range of educational publications.

As a skilled and intuitive leader of SEND and inclusion, Ofsted described his practice as “beyond outstanding……..inspirational!”
Graham Shaw
Consultant, Wrigley's Solicitors LLP
Graham is one of the country’s foremost legal authorities in the education sector having advised schools and academy trusts since 2002.

In the area of special educational needs, his expertise includes the legal framework governing school placements and the respective obligations of schools, trusts and local authorities in providing and funding special educational provision whether under an education, care and health plan or otherwise and in mainstream, special, hospital and alternative provision school settings including where residential accommodation is provided.

He expertise also includes the academy conversion of special and hospital schools and alternative provision and the operational requirements of these settings. More widely, Graham’s expertise includes admissions, behaviour, exclusions, governance, compliance, contracts and service level agreements.
Kate Longworth
CEO, Gaia Learning
Kate Longworth is the CEO and co-founder of Gaia Learning. She is a marketing entrepreneur across Education and Tech; having partnered with the NHS, local authorities and colleges to understand learner experiences in education. Kate’s daughter has Pathological Demand Avoidance.

Gaia Learning provides online learning & support for learners with ADHD and Autism. Gaia Learning partners with schools, families and local authorities across the UK and around the world. “The students love it and they have other kids looking over their shoulder, more want to join Gaia classes, it's fantastic"
Kirstin Coughtrie
CFO, Gaia Learning
Kirstin Coughtrie is the CFO and co-founder of Gaia Learning. She is a qualified teacher, ADHD coach, and devoted mother to three neurodivergent children. Kirstin champions global education goals as an Ambassador for Teaching the SDGs. Additionally, Kirstin has recently taken on the role of SEND Governor at a school.

Gaia Learning provides online learning & support for learners with ADHD and Autism. Gaia Learning partners with schools, families and local authorities across the UK and around the world. “The students love it and they have other kids looking over their shoulder, more want to join Gaia classes, it's fantastic"
Cynthia Caria
Outreach Consultant, Beyond Autism
Cynthia is a Psychology graduate from Brunel University London currently finishing off her MSc in Applied Behavioural Analysis. She has been working in the field for 4 years, starting in 2018, where she worked as a project assistant, supporting with early intervention programmes for young people at risk of exclusion or placement breakdown. After graduating in 2019, Cynthia undertook a graduate PBS practitioner role for a learning disability and mental health organisation, facilitating with PBSP’s and interventions as part of a multidisciplinary team. In 2022, she started working as a behavioural therapist for autistic people and those who have a learning disability. Here she supported with independent living and skill acquisition. Between 2022-2023, Cynthia was the safeguarding champion for a few of the residential services, delivering training and the upkeep of competencies. She also worked on AFLS projects and won an APT-RAID first place award with her team for excellent work supporting individuals with behaviours that challenge. The move to Outreach and Consultancy will support her growth in achieving a BCBA accreditation, supported by experts in the field and continuing to create positive change for young individuals.
Matt Wicks
Head of Outreach and Training, Beyond Autism
Matt has worked with children and young people since 2007, in a variety of settings including mainstream schools, special needs schools and ABA specific special schools. After completing his degree he began work as an ABA Tutor at Ambitious About Autism. 4 years later he left to pursue his career in ABA, studying for a masters in ABA part time while working as a self-employed Behaviour Analyst on ABA home programmes. In 2014 he graduated and began working towards becoming board certified. Matt passed the BCBA exam in February 2017 and started working for BeyondAutism as an Outreach Consultant in June 2017. In July 2023, Matt became Head of Outreach and Training. He is passionate about disseminating knowledge and understanding of behaviour analysis.
Beth Madigan
Just Keep Talking
Beth is a Speech and Language Therapist with many years of experience working with adults and children with communication difficulties within the NHS and Independent sectors. She is a Director of Just Keep Talking Ltd, a Speech and Language Therapy service based in Staffordshire, which provides training and support to education and other settings in addition to the clinical service.

Beth leads professional development for colleagues in the West Midlands, is a visiting teacher at Birmingham City University, and is currently a part-time master’s student. She is particularly interested in supporting children and young people with Developmental Language Disorder and Speech Sound Disorder to navigate school life and beyond.

*Showing confirmed speakers. Programme and workshops subject to change.

The Conference
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Eastwood Hall, Nottingham

12th March 2025

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