Headteachers Blog

Here is where you will find the thoughts and views from our headteacher Ms. John

Summer Term

During the last two weeks of term I, once again had the opportunity to see real progress and students hitting significant milestones in their lives. The sports award morning was, as ever, an inspiration to us all and I was delighted to see our students in Key Stage 4 making speeches to the entire Gracie Fields Theatre as they introduced the awards for their peers. The sports department continue to give the young people great opportunities and Thomas Henley, a British national and Commonwealth  Champion in Taekwondo was a fantastic inspirational speaker. Please see below the link to his facebook and youtube account if you are interested in finding out more about this talented young man.



The proms for year 11 and year 14 were fantastic events with much glitz and glamour and the internship graduation was as joyful as ever, celebrating our young people who have succeeded so well on the employability pathway.

When I look back over the past year there are so many things to celebrate such as our increased number of residential experiences including to the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust, Calvert Trust, and Moorland home. These residentials give our young people the opportunity to develop their social and lifeskills which supports the Learning Outside the Classroom agenda. They are also a great deal of fun!

Our young people have also shown themselves to be a big part of their own community; from taking part in a public speaking competition with the Rotary club, to supporting with the SEND engagement day in Middleton Arena and the many performances that our choir and dancers have completed across Rochdale. We are also beginning some exciting new work with some of our year 12 students and their peers from Rochdale 6th form college. This is an opportunity to raise the profile of our young people and what they have to offer across Rochdale. Stay tuned for updates in this area…

Our creative curriculum days have developed our learning across the curriculum further, these have included World Book Day, STEM day (Mission to Mars) and our Eid celebration parties. All of these can be seen on our updates via social media where you will see how these experiences enhance the progress of young people towards their personalised outcomes. I am excited to let you all know that we have some students who have sat GCSEs this year and school will be open for results day on 22nd August.

Our transition has been comprehensive again this year and it has been exciting to see the year 6 pupils getting to know the staff and our building and their parents attending coffee events where they have had the opportunity to meet staff teams and have questions answered in what is a very stressful transition time. Whilst we are looking forward to seeing the new students, and welcoming new staff, this is also a time to say goodbye. We have a number of staff that are leaving us and we wish them all the best in the next chapter of their lives.

As I am sat here writing this, I can see the children and young people who are enjoying our holiday club which has been running for the last two weeks. As I communicated to families, we are at Redwood committed to giving the most comprehensive offer to our young people in Rochdale and I am delighted that we have been able to continue the holiday club in collaboration with Rochdale short breaks funding.

Finally I want to say a big thankyou to all of the staff team across the organisation. As anyone who comes to the organisation will tell you, the ethos of the school is apparent as soon as you walk through the doors. The commitment of the whole team enables the young people to realise their aspirations. I hope everyone is having a well deserved break and I am excited to see you all in September.

February Half Term

A key theme of our school improvement plan this year is ‘Active Learning’ and it is definitely an appropriate phrase to describe Redwood’s curriculum. As an illustration, one day last half term on walking around the school, it dawned on me that we had, Manchester United in working with our young people in conjunction with Middleton Technology College, Barclays Life skills programme working with KS4 students and a group of our students on the vocational/employability programme working in the sensory garden on constructing a wooden structure. All in one walk around!

The Performing Arts department has experienced great success this half term in The Rochdale Youth Festival of Performing Arts. We had students competing in the drama, dance and music categories and the feedback was outstanding, so much so, that it brought Ms. Lansom-Smith to tears!!

Progress in academic subjects is a good news story too, Miss Richardson (head of Maths) and Mrs. Mulligan (Head of English) have worked really hard with their teams this year and it has shown in the progress of core subjects which have improved significantly in 12 months.

The staff have been hard at work, as ever, involved in active learning of a different kind; the teachers are taking part in ‘Peer Coaching’ which involves deliverers learning from each other and sharing good practice via informal observations. Also, staff training has taken on a different form this term with Miss Connor designing a variety of different sessions from which staff could choose two to attend. This allowed colleagues to be active in their own professional development.

We also welcome a new governor this term – Eric Jackson. Eric is a retired headteacher with a wealth of experience and expertise and I look forward to working with him as leadership and management link governor. As part of leadership development, I am going to be involved in some SEN reviews of mainstream school this term, in Rochdale, something that I firmly believe is a key role that we can contribute to with our mainstream colleagues and the pressures they face. I look forward to spending time in other schools around Rochdale as part of this.

During this half term holiday, we are having a sunken trampoline installed in the sensory garden; this is something that Nancy, our business manager secured funding for via a bid to the 'healthy schools capital’ project. This will not only benefit students at the school for leisure and their physical development aspect of learning but also the holiday clubs that have proved so popular again this year. As many parents will know the holiday clubs, have been funded for the last three years by the short breaks funding in Rochdale. It is important that families are made aware that the current contract will be ceasing at the end of this financial year. Whilst we are hoping that this funding will be continued into a further contracted period, no decision has been made yet and we are awaiting this decision in the next couple of weeks. I can confirm that the Easter Holiday club will definitely run but following that we are, as yet unsure of the future of the clubs. As a school, we are committed to the extended school's agenda and I can assure families that we will remain in close contact with you all in relation to future plans.


Many thanks, as ever for the continued support of all our stakeholders.



End of Term

Our young people and the staff who support them never cease to amaze me and this term has been no exception. Following last year’s curriculum review, we have some exciting new options including the Duke of Edinburgh award, which is being run by Mr Ashworth and has proved very popular with the students. You can see highlights of their work in our local residential home Beechwood Lodge on our social media updates. As ever, we have had a number of exciting sports events including Rochdale football club joining us to make a video for BBC Radio Manchester sport. This was to celebrate UN international of people with disabilities. A great time was had by all, and the footballers who joined us were questioned by our young people who were very impressed with their skills and dedication. We also enjoyed our STEM disaster day; a creative curriculum day where everyone learned what it may be like to be involved in an earthquake disaster.

We never stop developing at Redwood and this year we are researching what ‘active learning’ is for all the young people (and staff) at Redwood. Our colleagues from special schools across the North West joined us in a peer review to look at this aspect of our School Improvement Plan, on the back of which we have created an action plan to ensure our young people are fully engaged in their own learning. In the interests of this, the staff too are engaging in ‘active learning’ on a professional level and next term will be working in teams to learn from each others’ teaching skills. This will be led by middle leaders and the feedback from staff will inform what future developments are prioritised.

I was very proud of how many of our young people remembered people lost in the wars of the past on Remembrance Day, this included some art work by our young people at REEC as part of the Prince’s Trust ‘Achieve’ programme. Their work has been placed in Middleton memorial gardens and showed our respect for lost soldiers.

In November we were pleased to welcome Rochdale Parent Carer forum representatives for a coffee morning to network and share ideas and practice. This is something we at Redwood are keen to develop as it is so important that our young people and their families   Play a large part in the development of what we do both at Redwood and in the wider community.

As Christmas approached we utilised the season of goodwill to develop our lifeskills agenda further. With the support of our business manager the Redwood Christmas markets were widely advertised, including a video of the young people themselves, which went to local businesses for sponsorship. The result was amazing £2500 was made for the organisation!! - a big thank you goes out to all those who supported us in such a fantastic experience the impact of which was as much social as it was  financial.

As ever the arts loom large on our agenda and the MATP combines this with physical development for our SEB learners. The celebration was fantastic and showed the joy the young people get from their learning and was an opportunity to share this with their peers and families. The Christmas showcase was another example of this and was an important whole school event which took place in the Gracie Fields Theatre with parents in attendance. It is an important skill that our young people benefit from performing on a professional sized stage with such a big audience.

It only remains for me to say thank you to all staff for their relentless commitment, and to the families for their continued support, but most of all a big thank you to our fantastic young people without whom none of this would make any sense.

Have a very happy holiday and we will see you all in the New Year.

Summer Term

This year has been so exciting to be part of - I can’t believe it’s over! The final week of term is always an opportunity to look back and recognise the achievements of the past year, something that we did on Wednesday morning in our Celebration Assembly in the Gracie Fields Theatre.

This year has seen so many events in our ‘British Values’ Calendar, including The Royal Wedding Party Day, Our Eid Celebration, Head Boy and Head Girl elections and Red Aid day this week. These events teach us so much about respect for each other, celebrating our differences and giving students the confidence to take their place in society. We also have a lot of fun!

Talking of fun, there have been a number of residentials this term, including to Moorland Home and the Calvert trust. These experiences give our young people so many lifeskills opportunities and it is often the first time away from home without parents or carers.

Sport has continued to go from strength to strength this year; the achievements of the students are well documented on our sports social media @Redwood_Sports; active learning is something we are committed to at Redwood and thanks to the Youth Sports Trust for the opportunities given to our young people throughout the year.

We finally have the keys for our long awaited extension and the staff and students have been excited to look at the new classrooms and facilities we have. Although it has taken a long time to complete, the finished product is of a very high quality and like other special schools across the country, as our numbers continue to increase we welcome the capacity to develop the school further.

The end of the year always signifies some ‘goodbyes’, not least our year 11 and 14 leavers as they move into the next stage of their lives. This year two members of staff are leaving us - Grant Hirst, who is moving to work at another school – we wish you well Grant in all your future endeavours! We also lose our much loved deputy head Karen Haworth, who is leaving to become headteacher of Woodlands School in Blackpool. Karen’s contribution to Redwood’s development has been immeasurable and she will be sadly missed.

As one door closes, however, another opens and as of September, along with our new year 7 pupils we would like to welcome Joanne Connor, our new deputy who joins us from Tameside. We look forward to you joining the Redwood team and being part of the exciting journey ahead.

There are so many things to be celebrated about this year, not all of which I have included but my biggest thanks, as always goes to the wonderful staff team, whose commitment  never ceases to amaze me, the parents and carers who continue to support our aspirations for the young people, and of course, the young people themselves, who are the inspiration that motivates us all.

I wish you all a great summer and I look forward to an exciting year in 2018/19.

Easter Half Term

Another very full half term at Redwood. Unfortunately the weather had a significant impact on us. The snow is something that always causes huge disruption when it comes with such force as it did this time. The decision to close the school is not one I take lightly but the safety of everyone at the school is paramount and after discussions with our chair of governors and liaison with John Watson at Oulder Hill, I felt it was best to prioritise health and safety. I want to say a big thank you to our colleagues in Grosvener; the site staff worked tirelessly to facilitate safe learning as far as was humanly possible.

Earlier in the term, Mrs Mulligan could have been forgiven for feeling defeated by the weather, when the snow came just in time for world book day. Both staff and students were really disappointed when we were unable to go ahead with the creative learning day as planned, but, not giving up, they rescheduled the celebrations and a fantastic experience was had by the whole school at the Redwood site. It was a wonderful example of fun and learning coming together for all. They even managed to persuade me to dress up as the mad hatter! 

On 23rd March, Mrs Milston and her team took a group of dancers to The Town Hall to be part of the arts festival in Rochdale. The arts is very close to my heart; music being my subject specialism. I believe it can empower all of our young people, from facilitating social interactions small groups, through to developing confidence skills as students perform in front of large audiences. Here is a quote from Mrs Milston:

The ‘Independence’ group, our individual performer and ‘The Magician’ dance received 88%, 90% and 90% respectfully (highly commended and Honours!!!!)

This is a fantastic result and the reports speak about our students as ‘expressive’, ‘powerful’, ‘controlled’ and ‘balanced’. We are all very proud of you.

As ever the sports department are busy, doing fantastic outward facing work with the Youth Sports Trust.  This ranges from a small number of students being involved in the national ‘unlocking potential’ project to a wonderful celebration morning with our SEB groups, where they shared the aspirational ‘elements’ they have been working on. Perhaps what sums the work up is the comments of Olympic athlete Montell Douglas who visited the school and spent time with students:

"During my brief time at Redwood, I was inspired to say the least by around 9am!  Firstly, the staff were amazing to work with and I felt the passion to help and develop the students right from the off. 

I had the pleasure of attending an English class whereby a BBC School report team interviewed me with truly some of the most thought provoking and emotive questions I've ever been asked. I was further impressed with the students' ability to consistently deliver outstanding standards throughout the day and I thoroughly enjoyed helping the young leaders break down barriers towards their own Leadership Development.

One of the best and inspiring visits I have ever had"

Thank You Redwood."

The curriculum coordinators have also been hard at work, in collaboration with the wider leadership team to review the curriculum in preparation for next academic year. The meetings have combined the considerable expertise of staff and will, I believe, allow us to build on the strength of the offer as we move forward with increasing numbers. Our model of project planning in line with the School Improvement Plan has allowed all developments to be linked to the budget and one outcome is the decision to invest in our ICT infrastructure. This will include transforming one of our ICT suites to become more interactive for learners that benefit from switch activated software as well as updating resources across the school.

The new build is at the point of being finished and we are hoping to receive handover of that after half term. Sandra Bowness (assistant director of early help and schools in Rochdale) came to visit us in March and we discussed the rising numbers in special schools and how this would be managed in the years to come. This is a national challenge that we will have to face together and is a point of discussion in forums that I am part of such as GMSEND strategic group.

Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to all the staff that continue to work with such joy for our young people. Please keep your eyes open for all the exciting events in the upcoming term.

February Half Term

The first half term of 2018 is over already, and I have been part of Redwood for half of the school year; it is amazing how quickly the time has passed! We are excited to be able to resume our social media presence to celebrate achievements and successes with the wider community.

I would like to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome; it is a joy to be part of the Redwood community with such a positive staff team and young people who are an inspiration to us all. I met with the student council last week and they are very proactive advocates for all aspects of school life from the extension (which is well on the way to being finished) to the levels of staffing in the classrooms.

As a school, we know how important it is to be part of the wider community, regional, national and ultimately international. As such we are not only ensuring that students have the opportunity to be part of events and developments but also that our voice is heard in various forums in order that we can impact on developments at a governmental level. It was good to meet colleagues from all over the country when a couple of us went to London as part of ‘Ambassador Schools’ conference for the Youth Sports Trust. Also, I went to an event in Manchester where Andy Burnham spoke about his ‘Get Manchester Moving’ Campaign. From this, we are looking at what ‘active learning’ means for our young people and how we can contribute to regional developments.

It was also great to go and meet our colleagues at Brownhill Learning Community and have discussions with Kate Connolly, headteacher, in relation to the secondary special offer in Rochdale, and it has been interesting for me to be part of the Pioneers Trust where all secondary heads meet to review and discuss developments in education. We all agree that in the current climate in education schools are stronger together.

There are a number of events coming up in the next term including Red Aid Day, the theme of which will, of course be ‘The World Cup’ which I will tolerate even though Wales (my home nation) didn’t qualify this time! We will also be celebrating World Book day after half term where Mrs Mulligan is raising the profile of books across the school including a ‘Blind Book Date’ shelf for staff. We have also heard from Mr Butterworth that a number of students have qualified to represent Redwood at the regional rowing final on Tuesday 27th February at Manchester University.

One big thank you we have to make is to George Rodger’s family; apparently, George’s dad is a Manchester United fan who made the ultimate sacrifice by wearing a City shirt all day and raising a fantastic £1,125 for Redwood School!