Our alumni become mainstream SLT, working systemically to reduce exclusion.

Pupil mental health and safeguarding are the fastest growing concerns for school leaders and areas in the country with the lowest educational outcomes also face complex challenges linked to health and social care. Yet there is little specialist training to upskill leaders in school-based interventions and working multi-agency to support safeguarding and mental health needs.

schools stats.JPG


After their two year programme placement, we will be reintroducing a pool of specialist talent – our difference leaders - back into mainstream schools. As mainstream SLT out leaders will cascade their knowledge of mental health and safeguarding, lead inclusive whole school policy and drive long term systems change.

AP Infographic.JPG

Teacher Case study: A whole-school approach to inclusion

Shaun is deputy headteacher for inclusion at Thomas Tallis School. He was an attractive hire to his mainstream school because of his MA in inclusion, SENCO qualification and experience working in a PRU. ‘In the PRU, I learnt to speak CAMHS and I learnt to speak social care,’ he says, describing his close relationships with colleagues working around vulnerable pupils and their families. These experiences influenced Shaun’s three-tiered, whole-school approach to leading learning, wellbeing and safeguarding.

Tier 1 – Supporting universal needs

Before Shaun arrived, behaviour, special educational needs and pastoral staff teams sat separately in the school’s structure. A new inclusion framework now unites the teams, formalised in a line management structure under Shaun’s deputy headship. This framework involves goals and training for all staff skills in ‘tier 1’ – universal support of students’ learning, wellbeing and safeguarding needs.

Tier 2 – Intervening preventatively

Shaun’s tiered model involves providing preventative interventions, often with the help of external organisations. ‘This year I brought in Chelsea’s Choice, a child sexual exploitation awareness charity; the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which focuses on self-esteem and substance misuse; and have lined up Growing Against Gang Violence and Yinka Williams, whose work focuses on online abuse. In each instance, the organisation delivered to the whole year group about the safeguarding risk. We don’t assume that a particular issue is/isn’t affecting students – we allow them all to learn about and understand the issue, and equip them with the skills

to recognise it in the future. Next, students reflected on the content in pastoral groups. From there, we moved on to targeted work with students who were identified through the process as particularly at risk.’

Tier 3 – Addressing acute need

Shaun holds relationships with key local authority agencies, which has enabled him to improve referrals and support for vulnerable children. ‘In one instance, our concerns weren’t being recognised by social care, because interactions with parents were positive even though the child was in serious risk of harm. I did something really unorthodox and called an Initial Child Protection Conference myself – normally this is called by social care. If I hadn’t worked so much with other agencies, I wouldn’t have necessarily known that schools have that power too. But they do, and I did, and it led to much better support from social care for that vulnerable young person.”

This is a much-needed initiative to address the complex problem of school exclusion. Schools need to work closely with social care and mental health services to support our most disadvantaged pupils. ARK Schools welcome the development of The Difference, and its ambition to create a new generation of specialist school leaders.
— Lucy Heller, CEO of Ark multi academy trust

This is a great initiative. Schools need to ensure they have teachers who really care about the character and competence of every student regardless of their starting point. This programme is so vital because it provides teachers with the expertise and evidence base of education interventions needed to support the most vulnerable learners.
— John Murphy, CEO of Oasis multi academy trust