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Gareth Morewood, Educational Advisor, Studio III (Chair)
Gareth is the educational advisor for Studio III (www.studio3.org). Previously he worked for 25 years in U.K. schools; 17 of which were as SENCo in a large, inclusive secondary school in North-West England. He has extensive ‘front-line’ experience supporting schools, families and working directly with young people in the U.K. and abroad, particularly Chile, Dubai, Portugal, Ireland and Scandinavia. Gareth is co-director of the LASER programme, which fuses his critically acclaimed Saturation Model (Morewood, Humphrey & Symes, 2011) with low arousal approaches (McDonnell & Deveau, 2018) as part of a system-led model of inclusive practice. As a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Chester, Gareth leads on postgraduate courses, teaching non-adverse approaches to supporting people with complex needs.
Frances Akinde, Neurodivergent educator, Former Headteacher
Frances is a former headteacher of a secondary special school for learners ages 11 to 19 with autism and associated difficulties. A qualified SENCO, over the past 20 years she has worked in a variety of roles across primary, secondary, special/alternative provision and local authority, from Art/Design Technology teacher to an SLCN advisory teacher liaising with speech and language therapists across a local authority. In January 2023, Frances co-launched BAMEed SEND hub as part of the BAMEed Network, a diverse network for educators which aims to ensure diversity and address racial inequities in education. As a neurodivergent educator, Frances uses her experiences to support and mentor people who may be struggling in the workplace. She is also an anti-racism coach.
Ricky Brown, Teacher and Apple Professional Learning Specialist, Sync
With over 20 years of experience in the education sector, teacher and Apple Professional Learning Specialist, Ricky works with organisations around the UK to enhance the way they use technology. Ricky’s specialist subjects include leadership and management, accessibility, and strategic planning. He currently leads the CPD and training for educational specialist Sync and co-ordinates projects for a range of schools, colleges and charities - including Family Fund and Guide Dogs Association for the Blind.
Jo Billington, Doctoral Researcher, Centre for Autism, University of Reading
Jo is an autism researcher, lecturer, and advocate. Her research is focused on documenting the lived experiences of autistic children in mainstream primary schools with the aim of developing autism-friendly educational policy and practice. In addition to her academic work, Jo is a specialist autism practitioner for Berkshire-based charity Parenting Special Children, and a mental health trainer for The Charlie Waller Trust.
Dr Alison Ekins, Director of SEN and Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University
Alison currently works as Director of SEN for a multi-academy trust of nine schools, including five primary schools (four with Specialist Resource Provisions for pupils with EHCP's for ASC) and four secondary schools). Alison also continues to lead cohorts on the statutory National Award for SEN Coordination at Canterbury Christ Church University, which she set up and developed from 2009. Alison has published several books including, The Changing Face of Special Educational Needs: Impact and implications for SENCOs, teachers and their schools; Reconsidering Inclusion: Sustaining and building inclusive practices in schools. and is currently working on a new book Outstanding SEN Leadership: Principles, Policy and Practice.
Richard Freeth, Partner, Browne Jacobson LLP
With over 20 years’ experience practising education law, Richard is an independently ranked leading lawyer and is a key member of the Browne Jacobson education team. He specialises on a wide range of education law issues, both operational and strategic, and has a wide breadth of experience gained through his work in the public and private sectors directly supporting schools and LAs on education issues. Richard leads our team on a wide range of pastoral issues that affect schools on a regular basis – admissions (both mainstream and SEN), exclusions, SEN (including high-needs funding), disability discrimination and other equalities issues, parental complaints and relationships with LAs.
Sam Garner, Mental Health & Inclusion Consultant
A renowned speaker, training and author on mental health and SEN, Sam was a SENCo in a large secondary school. She is a qualified CBT therapist, child and adolescent counsellor, and CBT coach. Sam regularly speaks at conferences and provides consultancy and training for organisations both nationally and internationally. Lauded for her humour and 'tell it like it is' approach to mental health and inclusion, Sam has also written a range of CBT resources which are used by staff in school to support student mental health.
Rebecca Garside, BA QTS (hons) SEND, NASENCO, Director and Founder
Rebecca has a career spanning 23 years of working in SEND and inclusion. She has fulfilled the roles of: support worker, teaching assistant, qualified SEND teacher, SENCO and senior leader. Her experience encompasses mainstream and specialist settings here in the UK, as well as setting up SEND provision in schools abroad. She is now Director of Inclusion Infusion ltd and co-directs the Neurodivergent Teacher Network CIC. She has founded Sunflower Education CIC Alternative Provision. Rebecca has recently been approached by Routledge to discuss authoring a book on masking and creating mask-free schools. With two ADHD/autistic children and with ADHD herself, she has experience from all sides.
Catrina Lowri, SENDCO, Founder and Co-Director of Neurodivergent Teachers Network CIC
Catrina founded Neuroteachers to help educational settings work with their autistic and neurodivergent learners to find simple solutions for inclusive practice. Catrina is neurodivergent herself, having the dual diagnosis of dyslexia and bipolar disorder. She is a qualified special needs teacher and an experienced SENCO and advisory teacher. Catrina’s particular area of research is around exclusion prevention. She has written two papers for the Good Autism Practice Journal. The first, in 2018, was a case study about preventing exclusion for an autistic, ADHD boy with extreme demand avoidance. The second, published in 2020, looked at reintegrating autistic children into school after a period of persistent absence. Catrina believes passionately in true inclusion for all.
Tigz O'Mally, BA Childhood studies, 1-1 SEN Teaching assistant
Tigz has a BA in Childhood Studies, 15 years' experience in her field and has spent five years as a 1:1 teaching assistant for children with special educational needs. Her experience has been within a mainstream primary school. She is also involved in the Scouting movement and is a forest school enthusiast. Tigz has also spent many years supporting families and children as a childcare nanny.
Emma Pinnock, SEND Consultant, Essential Education Group Ltd
As an educator, Emma has had a rich and varied career. She has been a teacher for over 20 years, working in a range of environments. Emma’s passion to support SEND has derived from her professional and personal journey. This has led to her belief in people’s abilities to overcome barriers and difficulties. Emma's last role in education was as the head of a specialist provision, focused on the needs and education of children with autism. Emma has used these experiences to develop the Essential Education Group LTD which is a consultancy and training company, specialising in Special Educational needs, in particular neurodiversity.
Anna Smee, Managing Director, Thrive
A powerful advocate for all children and young people, Anna has emerged as one of the leading voices for youth wellbeing and opportunities in the UK. She has spent much of her career in the non-profit sector tackling inequality and helping marginalised young people access high quality youth work and employment. Now Managing Director of Thrive, Anna is determined to help schools and settings to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing within a whole school approach, so that they can fulfil their potential and become happy, confident and emotionally-resilient adults.