The co-creators

Sarah Martin-Denham
Senior Lecturer and Researcher
University of Sunderland
Strategic Director: SENCO Blog

Sarah is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sunderland and the Programme Leader for the Post Graduate Certificate National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordination. She is an author for Sage Publishers with her next publication the SENCO Handbook: Leading Provision and Practice, due for publication June 2019.  Sarah is a project director and lead author for externally commissioned research from Sunderland City Council and Together for Children.

Sarah has over twenty years’ experience of learning and teaching in the North East of England in a variety of settings from Early Years to Higher Education, through this she developed a particular interest in evidence based practice to meet the needs of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Sarah’s research interests include how we can better meet the needs of excluded children and young people through effective school systems and policies, professional learning and collaboration with families.   She is also interested in how the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator can be enabled to effectively lead improvements in provision and practice for children and young people in partnership with caregivers.  Sarah is currently carrying out research into childhood adversity and resilience as part of her role as convenor of an interdisciplinary research network.

Ryan Kennedy
Assistive Solutions and
Digital Inclusion Specialist
Technical Director: SENCO Blog

Ryan is an Assistive Solutions and Digital Inclusion Specialist at SCOPE. Within this role Ryan is a specialist Assistive Technologist, and he is a Web Accessibility QA tester.  He has over 7 years’ experience within Adult Health and Social Care, Specialising in physical disabilities, sensory/cognitive impairments and severe learning disabilities. He has worked in both residential, community and educational care settings and is also a SEN Governor for a local primary school in West Yorkshire.

He has a wide range of knowledge around technology to ensure it meets the needs and is accessible to everyone whether they have a disability and/or impairment. Ryan has a large amount of experience working with Specialist Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists for language, speech, swallowing and environmental controls for both children and adults. Including Mental Capacity Assessment, Best Interest decisions and Knowledge of access to Specialist NHS funding for communication, environmental controls and mobility services.

Ryan has a keen interest in learning more about the educational system and to ensure the systems are both accessible and person centred for all pupils, particularly those with SEND needs.

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Lynn Carr
Placement Support
University of Sunderland
Director of administration: SENCO Blog

Lynn has worked in the placements office for the Faculty of Education and Society at the University of Sunderland for thirteen years.

She works in close partnership with Sarah Martin Denham in promoting all aspects of Special Educational Needs and Disability by securing placement opportunities across the North East for students training to be teachers. She also sources placements in EAL, KS3 and Enrichment (Learning outside the classroom). The opportunities Lynn organises have been fundamental in securing employment for trainee teachers in alternative contexts.

Lynn is a member of the Independent SENCO Network based at the University of Sunderland and is an active contributor and participant in all SEND related events and projects. If you would like to host a student on a placement please contact Lynn also manages all of the administrative tasks for the Website/Blog, on a daily basis, manages all booking, courses, and up coming events.

Kerrie Whelan
Head: Endeavour Academy, Peterlee

Kerrie is currently the Head of Endeavour Academy in Peterlee, a KS4 Alternative Free School Provision for students experiencing SEMH issues.  With over 20 years’ experience of working with young people who have disengaged from education, Kerrie has spent the last 15 years on the Senior Management Team of a large, all age Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). After qualifying as a Head Teacher, Kerrie took on an Interim Headship where she was successful in becoming the first PRU to achieve Centre of Excellence status in the teaching of Financial Capability. Her passion for promoting positive mental health was evident in the partnerships she developed to establish a large network of Mental Health Champions, leading to named personnel within the school environment who were trained to facilitate change. Kerrie strives to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for students with a focus on resilience programmes of learning which teach students how to cope with and respond to change and in still the basic skills required become successful and confident learners and responsible citizens within their communities.

Dave Kirby

Dave is the (SENCO) and teacher at a Pupil referral Unit in Newcastle-upon Tyne. He has been teaching for seven years following an extensive career in manufacturing. During his time as a teacher Dave has always worked in the field of special educational needs and it is within this area that his greatest interests reside. Following the completion of the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination David is now working towards an MA in Special Educational Needs, Disability and Inclusion.

His research interests include the effects of social, emotional and mental health issues of young people in general and in particular the impact of dyslexia on those in education.

Dave is also an active member of the SENCO network at the University of Sunderland.

Phil Tebbs
Head of SEN
Pear Tree School

Phil is the Head of Special Educational Needs and part of the Senior Leadership Team at Pear Tree School, a leading specialist independent school which specialises in educating vulnerable survivors and child perpetrators of child sexual exploitation in the looked after system.  He has developed specialist knowledge of teaching vulnerable young people with a wide range of SEN with a particular interest in studying the effects of childhood traumatic experiences on brain development, cognition and learning and supporting young people in working towards positive outcomes.  Prior to this, Phil taught design and technology in a mainstream and was curriculum leader for electronics.  He was extensively involved in redesigning Year 7 education, developing a holistic, pastoral and pupil-centred model using a topic-based approach to deliver the humanities subjects. His research interests include how education and social care can better meet the needs of looked after and trauma-affected children and how they can be enabled and supported to overcome barriers to learning and progression.  He is also interested in supporting looked after children in transition from specialist education to mainstream education, into post-16 education and beyond.

Claire Hornsby

Claire has been a SENCO for the past three years having completed the Post Graduate Certificate National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at Sunderland University. Prior to this Claire trained as a Teacher of Music, she has held a range of positions such as Head of Department and Gifted and Talented Co-ordinator and within this has a keen interest in providing child centred support, inclusion for all students and supporting students to achieve their own personal best.

 Claire’s interests cover a broad range of Special Educational Needs including a particular interest in supporting children with Autism and transitions for all pupils.

Claire is currently completing the Post Graduate Certificate for Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia). Claire is also an active member of the SENCO network at the University of Sunderland.

Vicky Graham
Student Teacher

Vicky is in her final year of study at the University of Sunderland and will graduate with a 1st class honours degree in Primary Education this summer. In addition, Vicky was a recipient of the Sir Tom Cowie Memorial Scholarship Award in recognition of her excellent academic record. Following 15 years of working in financial sales and training Vicky decided on a career change to link with her passions.  This derives from supporting her oldest son, who has autism, through the education system.  As a parent of a child with Special Educational Needs and as a student teacher Vicky has experienced the process of SEND support in schools from the point of view of both teacher and parent.  

It is these experiences that lead Vicky to conduct her final year project on pupil centred approaches, an area which she feels has much disparity and could have been improved in her son’s care plans. Vicky plans to go on to study an MA in education at the University later this year, with particular focus on SEND and inclusion.

Laura Reynolds

Laura has been a teacher for the last fifteen years, she has worked in a variety of settings both in the UK and overseas, which she has thoroughly enjoyed. Currently, Laura is a Year 6 teacher, SENCO and member of SLT.

Though she finds this role challenging it is very rewarding. Laura has been in role as SENCO for the last four years, she completed the NASENCo qualification at Sunderland University. Laura has continued in her studies at Sunderland University and is due to complete her Master’s in Education this year.

Laura is particularly interested in promoting both pupil and adult mental-health and well-being. Laura is also an active member of the SENCO network based at the University of Sunderland.

Dominick Gray
Deputy Head, Student

Dominick has over 15 years supporting young people within alternative provisions in the North East. He has worked collaboratively with the British Council to embed good practice from Denmark into developing effective strategies in local schools. Dominick is currently Deputy Head Teacher at a large PRU across two sites covering Key Stages 1 to 4. One of his key priorities is to ensure young people with Social, Emotional and Mental Health issues are fully supported within mainstream education and given extensive opportunities to develop their coping strategies and resilience as much as possible.

Whilst studying for the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination at the University of Sunderland, Dominick has developed his interest in Adverse Childhood Experiences and strives to improve staff understanding by promoting CPD opportunities for staff and appropriate assessment tools to effectively support young people with ACEs. Dominick is a member of the Independent SENCO Networks in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

John Finlayson
Head Teacher/SENCO

John is currently a Headteacher and SENCo. He is setting up small school communities in the North East to meet students` needs, with particular experience in engaging young people struggling with attachment difficulties who have experienced significant childhood trauma. John is also a member of the Independent SENCO network at the University of Sunderland.