Media Centre

Minister David Johnston MP is questioned by students and staff at St Clare’s School in Derby over future of special needs education


Cricket, questions and concerns about the future of special needs education were shared with David Johnston MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Education, during his visit to St Clare’s School in Mickleover. 
The minister joined Derby North MP Amanda Solloway for a tour of the school in Rough Heanor Road, where she pulled together a round table featuring heads of several schools and alternative providers in the city who are helping to educate children with special education needs or who may have been excluded from mainstream education. 

During his tour, led by Laura Russell, head teacher at St Clare’s School which is part of the Esteem Multi-Academy Trust, Mr Johnston was shown how the building was designed to cater for up to 90 pupils but currently has 154 on the register. Laura also explained how £6million of funding allocated by the Trust and Derby City Council will be spent to increase the building size to cater for up to 200 pupils. 

David Johnston MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Education visited St Clare’s School in Derby. He was given a tour by headteacher Laura Russell and they were joined by Derby North MP Amanda Solloway. Image: Emily Baldwin – Esteem Multi-Academy Trust

He also got to try his hand at cricket and take questions from pupils in Year 7, 8 and 9, who asked him about the Houses of Parliament and his views on current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 
During the roundtable event, Amanda praised the collaborative work of the schools in the city. 

Talking to the head teachers and alternative providers in the room, she said: “We have an amazing group of people here and I want to thank you all for everything you do.” 

Julian Scholefield, CEO of Esteem Multi-Academy Trust, welcomed Mr Johnston to the school. He said: “I would like to thank you for taking the trouble to come to see our school, to hear about the plans for a major new building on this site being funded by Derby City Council and Esteem Multi-Academy Trust, and to listen to people here today.” 

Clive Lawrence OBE, Chief Education Officer at Esteem, added his thanks to Mr Johnston for visiting St Clare’s, a school he described as currently offering “outstanding provision” but he added that similar special schools up and down the country like St Clare’s are operating in “outdated and inadequate buildings.”  

Sharon Buckby, Director of Learning, Inclusion and Skills at Derby City Council echoed the positive relationship between educators in the city. 
“The collaboration within this city between schools and the local authority, across all levels from Trusts to local authority schools, primary, secondary, FE, early years, is outstanding and I have never seen the like of it before,” she said. “I don’t think you will go anywhere again where you see the level of collaboration that goes on here.” 
Questions were raised by Baby J, managing director of Baby People, the UK’s first dedicated Hip Hop school which uses art and culture to engage and support the needs of some of the most deprived young people in the city, along with Dan Read, managing director of Engineered Learning. They asked about the status of alternative provision and how the Government could better support providers who are trying to make a difference to young people’s lives. 

David Johnston MP also took part in a quick game of cricket during his visit to St Clare’s School in Mickleover. Video: Penguin PR.

Dan said: “We have a number of young people who we are training to be welders who are very talented but they can’t move on to apprenticeships because they can’t get the required qualifications in either Maths or English. There are businesses needing people with the skills they have but they can’t move on and we need to look at that system.” 
Concerns were also raised about the metrics by which special schools were measured and the balancing of resources so that children and their parents could be confident about the quality of provision in local special schools. 
Paula Martin, head teacher at Firs Primary School said that, with the right funding in place, schools in the city could make a huge difference. 

The round-table event included Sharon Buckby, Director of Learning, Inclusion and Skills at Derby City Council and Baby J of Baby People. Image: Emily Baldwin – Esteem Multi-Academy Trust.

She added: “The children at our schools can offer a lot to this country if they are given a chance.” 
Mr Johnston said the budget for SEND had increased by 60 per cent in the past four years – above most budgets for other sectors, and added the SEND improvement plan published last year aimed to resolve some of the other issues, including increasing SEND places and offering better clarity and guidance to parents on the settings which could meet their child’s needs. 
He also said he was talking to Ofsted about how schools can be more fairly measured based on how they are supporting children with special education needs who have Educational Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) in place. 
“I’m a big defender of our accountability system Having spent my life working with disadvantaged children, I have seen how it has helped improve their situation. 

Laura Russell, headteacher of St Clare’s is pictured chatting with Clive Lawrence and MP Amanda Solloway during the visit. Image: Emily Baldwin – Esteem Multi-Academy Trust.

“What we are looking at are those schools who are rated as Outstanding and yet do not have a single pupil with an EHCP so we are gathering data and looking at that and I am talking to Sir Martin Oliver, the new Chief Inspector of Ofsted about this.” 
Laura Russell, head teacher at St Clare’s School, said it had been a pleasure to welcome the guests to the school. 
“It was an opportunity to be able to show what we are doing at St Clare’s, the difference the new building will make and to share and hear the challenges those of us working to improve the lives of young people with special education needs in this city are facing.” 

Can we help to raise the profile of your school or college? Get in touch for a cuppa and a chat.

More Stories

Other Stories We Think You'll Like

Get in Touch

Penguin PR is based in Derby, but our happy feet take us to wherever we’re needed – we’ve got clients in Derby and Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and across the East Midlands.

If you would like to find out more about us or discuss a PR project that you have in mind, please feel free to ring us or drop us an email!

Our Media Centre

Our Latest Media News