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Headteachers Blog

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

Hi all, 

I just wanted to take the opportunity to say a big thank you before I move on. It has been a wonderful 6 years working with you all and seeing the achievements of the young people in that time. Achievements that would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the wonderful staff team who consistently go above and beyond for the young people in their care. We have been through some difficult times together in the last few years, not least during the pandemic, but the school has come through it stronger, and the Active Learners in the Redwood community remain an inspiration to others, both in education and beyond.

There have been so many wonderful memories I will take with me, ranging from the emotional student speeches in the internship graduation to the joyful physical development work displayed in the MATP celebration mornings; from the many awards events to being part of the fantastic school choir; from being served by the vocational catering group at REEC to seeing the year 6s excited to start their high school journey at Redwood; from seeing the Duke of Edinburgh students working in the community to all the residential experiences that have been offered.

I could go on…

Thankyou, also, to you the parents and carers, for supporting the work that we do and enabling our young people to have wonderful opportunities which lead them towards meaningful destinations.


Finally, the biggest thanks goes to the young people themselves. You are all the reason we are here and you are what makes this the best job in the world! 😊


Jo Connor will be acting interim headteacher in September and a recruitment process for a substantive headteacher will follow. I know Jo and the team will continue to move the school forward, through this time of transition.


Have a great summer!



Friday 31st March 2023 

I can’t quite believe we have reached March 2023!

There has been so much happening in our community to celebrate, I hardly know which areas to highlight. Here’s a few glimpses of the rich and diverse curriculum we experience at Redwood:


It was fantastic to see our student Ambassadors at Manchester Regional Arena in the Step into Sport Inclusive leadership event earlier this month.


The Masked Reader event on world book day was great fun!




There have been some significant building developments at REEC, where we now have a café and a great outside space, which we use for youth club and some of the holiday clubs.




Our Duke of Edinburgh award goes from strength to strength and the highlight of this term for me was George Rodgers giving a speech in front of Andy Burnham and then meeting the man himself.



After half term we have a parents’ evening so look out for the information. The face to face experiences have gone very well and make us feel like normality has returned. In addition, parental communication on our new system Arbor has more than doubled and is now 86% which is great.

The staff and students are looking forward to residentials in the summer term. This will include Children’s Adventure Farm Trust, Moorland Home and D of E expeditions. Not only are these fun experiences but the wider skills the young people develop are invaluable to them and their progress towards adulthood.

On Monday 27th March I attended the SEND System event which was opened by dame Christine Lenehan who spoke about National developments in our sector. The day was attended by over 100 of leaders within SEND from across Rochdale and it was great to see the developments that are taking place and the energy from colleagues across health, social care and education to make a difference to our young people. I was invited to talk about our internship programme and I asked Marie English to join me. It is always wonderful to celebrate the excellent practice and outcomes with others and the feedback and interest that we gained was overwhelmingly positive.

Finally, I want to thank the wonderful staff team for their commitment to the young people, creating opportunities for them to be the best they can be. I also want to say a big thankyou to all of you, the parents and carers, for your unfailing support and, most importantly, the young people who make all the difficult times worthwhile.


Have a great Easter everyone and I’ll see you in the summer term!



16th December 2022

Can I begin by thanking parents for their understanding on Thursday in relation to dropping off time in the morning. It was beyond our control and was resolved by the emergency services very quickly. Thank you to all the staff who pulled out all the stops in the freezing cold and to Oulder Hill who responded immediately to let us walk the students through the building.


I also had to make some difficult decisions last week in relation to closing a couple of classes in our Engage bases; Families will know that this decision was not taken lightly and was only due to simply not having enough staff to manage the students safely. This has not been the case this week I am pleased to say.


On a lighter note, the Christmas Fair was wonderful on Wednesday and raised a whopping £1830! Thankyou to everyone who contributed and to all families for coming and making the atmosphere so positive. The various performances and events this week have made for a happy time and students have enjoyed the experiences of performing or watching their friends perform.


We have to say goodbye this week to our wonderful business manager Nancy Wright, who is moving on to pastures new. We must say a big thankyou to her for the support she has given the school over her time here, we will miss her hugely but wish her all the best for what lies ahead.


A final big thankyou to all the staff for their hard work this year, as every year, families and carers for your support of the organisation and finally thankyou to the young people for being an inspiration to all of us.


Happy Christmas

21st of July 2021


So, we have reached the end of another momentous year which have seen massive highs and lows across the organisation. As I think back and reflect over the year, perhaps the most surprising thing to note is the developments that have been made, in spite of the pressures put on us in the pandemic:


  • We have exciting new curriculum developments such as the development of our vocational pathways with the introduction of Btech qualifications, the further development of our Duke of Edinburgh award and Skills Builder and the amazing curriculum days which have finished our term in the last 10 days.


  • In spite of the situation in industry where jobs are at a premium, our internship team have still supported the young people on the internship to secure employment, even as recently as last week.


  • We are still committed to our role within the Youth Sports Trust as a lead inclusion school, but this year we have also been named as a lead on Health and Wellbeing and on the MATP (Motor Activity Training Programme), intended to increase inclusivity in the School Games.


  • The developments in technology have meant that we have still been able to develop our outward facing work, with partner schools, for example through our new Hub at Matthew Moss, and our wider community work such as environmental work that KS3 have been undertaking with Councillor Rachel Massey.


  • Along with GMSEND we have commissioned a piece of work from Emma Smith in relation to dealing with medicine in special schools, something that is a national issue for special schools.


  • The increase in engagement with families via means such as virtual meetings and the inspiring social media posts has ensured that we have not allowed the disruptions of the last year to impact our wider relationships.


  • Of course Patrick, our school dog, who, although not fully qualified yet has already had a huge positive impact on the wellbeing of the whole community and is the biggest star we have got, gaining acclaim on various media platforms!


  • Progress throughout COVID has been monitored, both academically (progress reports are out today) but also as part of the Recovery Curriculum, progress towards EHCP outcomes has been more closely monitored to ensure we are representing true progress for our young people.


I could go on…


These exciting projects have continued to happen against the odds, as a direct result of the commitment of the wonderful staff teams we have here at Redwood, the unfailing support of parents and carers and other stakeholders and, most importantly, the inspirational young people themselves whose positivity and resilience has carried us through the most difficult times.



It is important that the whole Redwood  community has the chance to recharge their batteries now. We are sad to say goodbye to some staff and students, but rest assured we are excited about the future and will continue to support our young people to be aspirational, now more than ever.

1st of April 2021


As we at Redwood, move forward, we are looking back and reflecting on the last year. There have been exceptional challenges that we never thought we would have to deal with, but deal with them we did - together. There have been many positives to take, such as our specialist curriculum days in STEM and the Arts and all the physical challenges that the young people have risen to. One of the things that we have learned is how much families value our social media interactions and you will have noticed that updates are now more regular, hopefully giving all stakeholders a greater insight into the positive learning environment that has been maintained throughout, this is thanks to the seamless teamwork of staff, students and families in relation to onsite and remote learning. The social media posts also serve to reinforce the young peoples’ role in their local community. One of my favourite posts is that of the poems that Hayley wrote, which I think you will agree express her emotions around Covid beautifully.

Parent communication has also developed significantly over the last year and the use of quick surveys is proving a very useful tool in this context. Feedback from families is that they are user friendly and easy to follow. As we continue to value parent voice, I wanted to let you know that we have a vacancy for a parent governor which will be advertised next term. If you feel you may be interested please contact school who will put you in touch with either myself or our other parent governors.

You will also have seen our recent post about Patrick, our new school dog. He is still a puppy in training but has already had an enormous positive impact on the organisation and brings much joy and positivity to both staff and students. My favourite image of him is sitting at the end of the day, saying goodbye to students as they get on their buses. Keep an eye open for the updates, you will see he is growing apace and learning new instructions/signs all the time.

Whilst we are feeling optimistic about the future, and it has been joyful to have most of our students back on site, we are not complacent and our whole school risk assessment remains in place, being updated at least every two weeks in line with DfE guidance. Thankyou to those families who have been completing the testing at home; it is another layer of reassurance that we are able to remain safe within school. Please can I remind parents that this testing should continue twice a week over the holidays.

Over Easter we are holding a blended learning version of holiday clubs with some young people on site and some accessing a virtual offer. This is another door that has been opened in relation to learning from home that we believe will be able to be used to enhance the offer further in the future. Look out for the pictures of what they will be getting up to over the next couple of weeks. Justin Henderson, our extended schools’ coordinator is also busy looking at the after school club offer which will begin the second week of next term.

Within the curriculum next term, we will be restarting a move towards our more traditional model, although in the main school body, instead of students moving around the school, the staff within bubbles will move between groups to teach different subject areas. This, of course, will not affect the bases who are always tutor group based. We have made the decision that some educational visits will be able to take place under clear restrictions, but at least these are all signs that some level of normality is around the corner.

This term is always focussed on transition and the team are working very hard to put together a meaningful offer in spite of any remaining Covid restrictions. If families have any questions, especially those of the young people who may be currently in year 6, please feel free to contact the school with any concerns you may have.

The school continues to have a pivotal role in the GMSEND steering group. Within this I am able to advocate for our young people and their families not just at a regional level but also within the national context, something that has been very important (if not at times a little frustrating!). We are able to do this by involving colleagues from the DfE SEND reference group who have, in turn ensured our voice is heard at the highest level.

As a school we are also keen to work with colleagues in Rochdale LA to find positive solutions for all young people with additional needs in the borough. With this in mind, the delayed Redwood Hub project is now being scheduled to be in situ in September. This is a project we are developing in partnership with mainstream colleagues to place groups of young people in mainstream schools but on role at Redwood with the benefit of the Redwood staff’s specific expertise. Watch this space for further updates.

Finally I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of the last year. The wonderfully courageous, committed and creative staff team, you the families for your unfailing support and most importantly, our wonderful young people, who have kept us smiling throughout

Stay safe everyone


2nd May 2020



I hope this finds you and all your families well. At Redwood work continues to provide an offer for all our young people, whether it be via the website and social media or on site in school. I want to take this opportunity to thank families for their ongoing support in what is such a difficult time for you all. I know the young people are missing the sense of community and the staff are most definitely missing their interactions with the students too, as I can see from emails I receive every day. Seeing both groups attempting the challenges set, however, shows me that everyone from Redwood is doing their utmost to stay engaged and involved as much as is possible and safe to do so.

The team continues to work closely with social care and other partners to ensure the most vulnerable of our community are safe and this week we celebrated our first virtual PTA meeting, which was a great success once everyone got used to the technology. If anyone is interested in joining this please contact Justin Henderson or Nicola Wright at school and they can add you in to the group.

I am continuing to be part of the local and regional network to ensure that key issues such as PPE, risk assessments and potential models of transition/reopening are carefully monitored and planned with the mental wellbeing of staff and students at the heart.

We continue to look forward, however, and as such we have advertised our new assistant head vacancy this week. The recruitment process will follow the social distancing guidelines we have been given by HR but we have already had a great deal of interest and I am confident we will be in a position to appoint before half term.

I received a letter from Peter Kiely, our chair of governors this week, which he asked me to pass on to staff, thanking them for their work and commitment to the young people. I want to reiterate this sentiment; I remain in awe of their energy and positivity. I miss you all and can’t wait until we are able to resume our normal curriculum.

Until then stay safe



4th April 2020

4th April 2020

I hope you are all well as we enter what would have been our Easter holidays. We are continuing our emergency childcare provision for the small number of children that need it; those of key workers and any vulnerable children who cannot be safely kept at home. Over the Easter period we will be sharing our building with our friends and colleagues from Oulder Hill, in the interests of reducing the number of site staff needed in the building. The groups of students from both schools will be completely separate in line with government guidelines.

In the midst of all the confusion of the last few weeks things are potentially settling, albeit into some kind of alternate reality. The government published the new Free School meal voucher scheme and I am happy to say we have been able to set that up for families quite quickly. There have been a couple of families we haven’t been able to contact so if you qualify for this and haven’t had the vouchers please contact the school so we can get this sorted.

As ever the staff at Redwood have not allowed the current situation to stop their energy and enthusiasm; they have been working very hard behind the scenes (and mostly remotely) to set up our new remote learning platform to support our students and families at home. This is being launched on our website and social media sites on Monday 6th April. There will be a document that all families can view that will have a range of different active learning challenges to choose from. New challenges will be set and uploaded every two weeks. Families will be able to share what students have been up to although this, of course will be optional.

As chair of The strategic Greater Manchester SEND group I have been contacted to be involved with a piece of work looking at mental health of young people with additional needs during this difficult time. This is, I feel, an extremely important piece of work which needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency. I will keep you posted on this.

As ever Redwood is here to support, so if families are struggling in any way please contact school; there will be someone on hand throughout the next two weeks.

Stay Safe


Covid-19 Update

27th March 2020


As this unique week ends, I wanted to catch up with you all to let you know where we are up to here at Redwood. Following the latest guidance we have established a childcare offer here for a very small number of children who cannot be catered for safely at home. I want to thank families for the support they have given us in adhering to the social distancing guidelines and staff for their unfailing commitment to the young people in this unsettling time for all.

Colleagues are working hard to put together activities and packs for young people to access at home and links to these are being uploaded to the website under the ‘Learning Resources’ tab; I recommend families to check this out as more will be added week by week. Also links to helplines and support networks can be found under the ‘School Info – Coronavirus update’.

We are also working hard to unpick the challenges around families entitled to Free School Meals; I have been told by the LA that a national voucher scheme will be announced on Monday. We have been in touch with these families to try and find solutions in the interim, and will continue to do so over the next few weeks.

I appreciate how difficult this time is for everyone, but we will continue to work as hard as possible for the best outcomes for our young people.

Stay Safe



Clare John

Covid-19 Update

19th March 2020


I know many parents/carers are understandably asking questions following the briefing from the government last night. I have spent all day today working through the implications for our young people and staff alike. I have met with Local Authority Colleagues, SLT and staff teams to begin to formulate a plan that puts the young people’s needs at the centre.

Can I assure you all that Redwood will continue to strive to find the answers to questions we have never had to address before and want to support families as much as is possible whilst ensuring medical advice is followed.

We will keep you updated as regularly as possible.

Many thanks for your ongoing support


Clare John

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