The National Committee

About the National Committee

The engage in their future National Committee has traditionally been composed of a Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, eight Regional Representatives, and up to five Co-Opted members. Three Trustees also contribute to the overall direction, compliance and management of the organisation. All are supported by an Administration and Strategic Support Officer.

At the July 2019 AGM, the introduction of a Co-Chair arrangement (to replace Chair / Vice-Chair structure) was proposed that would see two individuals share the role. This would be for the usual three year term but involve regular review and liaison with the rest of the National Committee, particularly for the first twelve months, to ensure effective implementation.

It was also proposed that the role of Co-Opted members continue to be part of the National Committee, and that an Advisory Board that pro-actively supports the National Committee but is not involved in the day to day running of the organisation be established.

Although two Co-Chairs have been proposed, selected and elected by the National Committee, the situation remains under review pending completion of a review of the constitutional implications of such a proposal.

Meet our National Committee Members

Pete Smith

Regional Representative for the North West

Sue Ackroyd

Co-Chair and Regional Representative for the North East

Tania Craig

Treasurer

Melissa Marris

Secretary

Neil Toplass

Regional Representative for the Midlands

Richard Berry

Co-Chair and Regional Representative for the South West

Harry Anderson

Regional Representative for the South East

Kirsty Robinson

Regional Representative for the South

Georgina Mutton

Administration and Strategic Support Officer

Jon Lees

Co-opted Member

Sharon Gray

Co-opted Member

Pete Smith

Regional Representative for the North West

Pete has worked in SEND for 20 years supporting pupils from primary to post-16 with many different abilities. Beginning as a teacher of Art and Design, Pete completed an M.Ed. in the Arts and Therapy and Education after moving from mainstream. He has served as Vice Principal and DSL and recently taken up the post of Head of Day School at West Kirby School and College. As the engage in their future Regional Representative for the North West, he has recently been part of the Sub-Team tasked with the development of the new website, whose aim it is to further support our CYP with SEMH and other diagnosis by providing an proactive, interactive interface to share good practice across the network. 

Address:

West Kirby School and College

Email:

Website:

Address:

West Kirby School and College

Sue Ackroyd

Co-Chair and Regional Representative for the North East

I have been actively involved in residential special education for over 30 years and in various roles before becoming Principal of the William Henry Smith School in August 2017.

I have a commitment to enabling and driving outstanding outcomes for children, scaffolded by specialist, creative and innovative practice and supported by an appropriate, well balanced and needs-led curriculum. I am driven by the challenge of high and complex need, and motivated by the impact that specialist schooling has on the lives of our young people and their families.

With a desire to impact upon the health, care and education of all children, I have taken on joint responsibility for chairing Engage. With a firm structure and backbone of specialists (experience, knowledge and active practitioners) in the Executive and Advisory team, we are ready to move the organisation beyond where it has stood nationally, enhancing its position, and redefining our offer to our current members and reaching out to new ones. With peer to peer support, sharing good practice and national representation of its members at the forefront of our drive, we are ambitious in our intent to provide strong leaders in education transforming the lives of our children and young people with Social, Emotional and Mental Health challenges.   
I am the North East of England Teaching and Learning lead for NASS (the National Association for Independent & Non-maintained Special Schools), leading on teaching & learning and leadership and facilitating peer review and development across 30 schools. With a drive for whole school improvement, this group provides a platform for sharing good practice (recognising the strengths of our workforce), providing peer review and development opportunities and developing strong networks between our schools.

I maintain a strong principle that beyond our school walls lies our duty to provide our local community mainstream primary and secondary schools with support, expertise and CPD; to use our schools’ knowledge and experience to help lead change, specifically around areas of mental health and well-being and quality of life. As such, I have an important and influential place around the tables of Calderdale Primary and Secondary Heads organisations, and have lead responsibility for chairing Calderdale’s Special Schools’ Cluster.  

A love for learning and a “nothing is impossible” mantra is at the heart of my leadership approach, helping young people, and staff, become the best they can be.

Address:

The William Henry Smith School

Email:

Website:

Address:

The William Henry Smith School

Tania Craig

Treasurer

Currently Executive Head Teacher of New Horizons Learning Centre in Bristol. We are a through SEMH maintained school, currently KS2 – 4, but due to open a KS1 section in September 2020.

Have been in SEMH education since 1997, where I started in a residential setting in Walsall. Moved to my first headship in Redditch in 2006 and moved to New Horizons (NHLC) in 2010. I truly love my job and feel privileged to work with some amazing young people and their families, who work hard to put the changes in places to enable them to reach their potential and make their mark in their community in a positive way.

I have been part of the engage in their future network for over 15 years and this year have joined the National Committee as Treasurer. I have always found the collegiate approach and peer support from others in the SEMH field invaluable and have used the regional group to share good practice and pick up new initiatives and ideas.

I am looking forward to working with engage in their future colleagues throughout the year!

Address:

New Horizons Learning Centre

Email:

Website:

Address:

New Horizons Learning Centre

Melissa Marris

Secretary

I have worked in education for 20 years, starting out in mainstream secondary, where I moved up to middle management level within my first three years of teaching, and have been in the SEND sector for the past 8 years. I am now the Head of a multi-site independent SEN school for students aged 5-19 with SEMH difficulties. I believe that every child deserves a chance at an education that is well suited to their individual needs, with staff that are understanding and an approach that supports them to achieve their best life chances. 

As a Head, I am keen to encourage staff to innovate and think creatively about how we provide a wide curriculum and new experiences for our students to help them to succeed and I also believe in holistic support for the family as well as the child. 

On a personal level, I have three daughters of my own, I like fast cars and I’m a bit of a pop music geek! 

Although relatively new to engage in their future, I have already met some amazing people and made some fantastic connections and I am happy to share whatever I can in order to support others where needed. I am looking forward to new challenges and being more involved with the engage in their future team this year.

Address:

Demeter House School

Email:

Website:

Address:

Demeter House School

Neil Toplass

Regional Representative for the Midlands

I have worked supporting and educating challenging students for the last 25 years. I have been a school leader for over 16 years and have been a Head for 12. I am currently the Executive Head Teacher of a split site residential SEMH school covering students from KS2 to KS4 (7-16 yrs old).

I am clear that students experiencing SEMH issues need to be supported by the best staff and have access to the best resources and curriculum a school can offer.

Students quite simply need to leave our provisions literate, numerate, resilient   and able to self regulate their behaviour. This will provide them with the best possible starting point to enter a place of work.

Over the last 6 years I have worked to develop a Regional Network of SEMH schools based in the Midlands. With the support of engage in their future, and joining the National Committee, our local schools are working more and more closely to bring together staff (through moderation exercises, conferences and visits), students (through inter school competitions and events) and leadership teams (through network meetings and more recently peer reviews).

I am passionate about improving the life chances of some of the most challenging and vulnerable students in our country and I’m happy to share my experiences, both good and not so good to support others in their journey.   

Address:

Shenstone Lodge School

Email:

Website:

Address:

Shenstone Lodge School

Richard Berry

Co-Chair and Regional Representative for the South West

Richard trained as a PE teacher and worked in the profession for 32 years; 21 of which were in senior management in both mainstream secondary schools and specialist provision. From 2012 until 2019 he was Head Teacher of Sky College in Taunton. In that time the school grew in number and age range and moved from being judged RI to Good over two inspection periods.

Richard now works as an independent educational consultant, he is a MHFA (England) Trainer; A TeamTeach Tutor; Whilst also being a mental health and wellbeing ambassador for the Rugby Football Union.

Harry Anderson

Regional Representative for the South East

I am the Principal of Muntham House School in West Sussex which is a residential special school.  I am also on Trustee for NASS (National Association for Independent and non-maintained schools)  I have been working in Special Education for over 20 years in both day and residential provisions. 

I am passionate about improving standards for SEN pupils so that they are able to achieve and maximise their potential.  I believe that the learning environment is so important and makes such a difference to pupil engagement, happiness and overall achievement. I therefore will always try to create outstanding environments for pupils on both the care and education sides so that high expectations can be achieved and more importantly maintained.  

Collaborative working and establishing partnerships between schools is vital and something which I firmly believe in.  This process creates quality assurance and sharing good practice helps us all to raise standards and improve outcomes for pupils.

Kirsty Robinson

Regional Representative for the South

Kirsty has worked in education for over 20 years and has led both mainstream and special schools in addition to running a support centre for children with autism.

She is the South Regional Representative for Engage in their future.

In 2016 Kirsty became an attachment lead for TouchBase supporting schools across all phases with their most vulnerable young people.

Kirsty joined the engage in their future network just before becoming Head Teacher at Waterloo School and has benefitted tremendously from all the support and guidance other members and the National Committee have offered.

Georgina Mutton

Administration and Strategic Support Officer

Georgina worked in the finance, international (UAE) and online direct marketing departments of a publishing company for several years before joining engage in their future in 2009.

Initially her role was to provide administrative support but the scope of this has grown significantly since then. The overall remit of the role has also expanded to include, amongst other things, event organisation, finance, and online support.

Working with inspiring colleagues, regularly facing new challenges and an ongoing commitment to support the whole community of the schools that engage in their future works with and represents all contribute to her continued enthusiasm for the role and commitment to the organisation.

Jon Lees

Co-opted Member

Jon is Co-Director of Specialist Education Services Ltd and was the Principal of both SES Ltd’s establishments, Avocet House and Turnstone House Schools, independent 52 week Specialist Schools and Children’s Homes for boys and girls with complex SEMH needs, based in Norfolk.

His teaching experience commenced in 1985 and since 1986 this has been within residential BESD schools.

Jon has a high quality track record as a leader and manager, spending 5 years as Deputy and a subsequent 5 years as Head Teacher of a maintained BESD school, which gained a national reputation for excellence.

Jon left the maintained sector in August 2004 to form SES Ltd with a colleague and set up Avocet House. Avocet House has been judged to be an Outstanding School in successive Ofsted inspections, January 2009, June 2012 and more recently May 2017. As duel registered children’s home it has also been consistently judged as Outstanding on all Ofsted, social care inspection criteria since 2009. In 2013 the school achieved Investors In People Gold Award. Jon opened Avocet House as the Principal until November 2013. Following his time at Avocet House Jon went on to lead SES Ltd’s second provision Turnstone House, in its next stage of development, from November 2013 to December 2016. Turnstone House was also inspected in May 2017 on a fully aligned Social Care and School Inspection and was judged as Outstanding across the board on all criteria.

Jon now has finally only just stepped out of his operational leadership role and turned his attention and energies fully to the strategic development of SES Ltd as a company, with a view to building upon the excellence now established at both Avocet House and Turnstone House.

Jon has been a member of engage in their future since it started at a national level in 1998 and joined the National Committee as Eastern Region Representative in 2002. After a year as Vice Chair, Jon became Chair of engage in their future in July 2008, a position he held until the summer of 2015 when he was elected as the fifth Co-opted Member.

Having attended the inaugural Team Teach Advanced Instructor course he has been an Advanced Tutor since 2000.

Address:

Specialist Education Services Ltd
The Old Vicarage,
School Lane,
Heckingham,
Norfolk
NR14 6QP

Telephone:

01508 549320

Email:

Jon.lees@specialisteducation.co.ukoffice@specialisteducation.co.uk

Website:

www.specialisteducation.co.uk

Address:

Specialist Education Services Ltd
The Old Vicarage,
School Lane,
Heckingham,
Norfolk
NR14 6QP

Telephone:

01508 549320

Website:

www.specialisteducation.co.uk

Sharon Gray

Co-opted Member

Sharon is currently an Education Consultant at Wholehearted Learning and the UK Hub Director for an International Charity – ecl foundation. The ecl Foundation is an international charity, registered in the UK, whose work and purpose is enhancing children’s lives. We help adults to create environments that enrich the emotional well-being, creativity and learning of children and young people. Our focus is to release a child’s innate desire to learn and for them to discover joy in their learning. We have national hubs in the UK, Namibia and South Africa and representatives in Holland, America and Asia. All delivering transformational new working practices to adults working with vulnerable children and their families, who face multiple challenges, including, mental health problems, inequality, poverty, violence and addiction.

Sharon was a Head Teacher for 18 years, most recently at Netherfield Primary and Pre-School, a larger than average primary school of 488 children in an area of significant deprivation. Sharon joined Netherfield in September 2009 when it was in special measures – in July 2013, the school was judged by Ofsted to be outstanding in all areas.

Other roles have included;

  • Head Teacher at Beormund SEBD school in London which was judged to be outstanding in 2007.
  • Advisory Head teacher in 2008 in Harbour Residential SEBD school as which is now judged to be Outstanding whilst working as a SEND consultant for Cocentra
  • Carrying out the SEBD review for Nottinghamshire County Council and supporting the developing vision and provision for SEBD pupils and vulnerable pupils who are at risk
  • Her current school, Netherfield Primary School had been placed in a category of special measures before she took over in September 2009, it was judged to be Good by Ofsted in February 2010 and in June 2013 as Oustanding.
  • Is a Team Teach Tutor.
  • Is a co-opted member of engage in their future, and joined the National committee as London Representative in 2002.
  • Is an additional team Ofsted inspector and has carried out Ofsted inspections with both Tribal and more recently since her move back to Nottingham, SERCO since 2004.
  • An active member of the SEND London Leadership Strategy team and work directly with them through the DfE to secure positive outcomes for children and young people experiencing SEND

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