During this most unprecedented of times, we dropped in on Kedleston Group Chief Executive, Paul Brosnan, to see how the organisation is faring with the challenges presented by Covid-19.
To ensure safe social distancing, Paul was interviewed via Video Link in his modest office - adorned by numerous artworks, thank you cards and other homages - all done by children from Kedleston’s various provisions. It gives a warm and welcoming feeling from an organisation that is known for its caring ethos and attention to detail.
Being one of the longest serving Chief Executives in the Independent special schools sector, we asked Paul what the key to the Group’s success is. He paused for a brief moment and then said:
“Stability; and as a result of COVID-19 and the challenges and perpetual change it has brought, – it has never has it been so important."
Paul then explained, as a result of years of investment in quality, specialist provision development and always keeping the focus on the children, Kedleston offers the most stable of foundations.
“Everyone needs stability in order to flourish and thrive. Children and their families need to know they are being supported by a strong and robust organisation who won’t give up on them, or disappear overnight. The people who commission places for our children need to be reassured likewise. And the people who work in specialist schools and homes also need the stability of a quality-focussed organisation to support them as they do their challenging and diverse work. At Kedleston I’ve always believed it is our role to deliver that stability for all of those people.
“Kedleston was founded 14 years ago and since then we’ve grown steadily, not aggressively. We’re a family organisation - and because of that we’re family-focused. Myself and Tony Hurran founded the company back then and we’re still here, still very active in the day-to-day running of our schools and homes, getting to know our children and their families. We absolutely believe consistency of leadership and vision is one of the first keys to providing stability.
“From when we first started we have had a clear ethos of always doing all we can to provide the very best care and support for all our young people and their families to help them reach their potential.
“These are families and children for whom stability and a sense of reassurance that they’re in safe hands is vital. Too often they’ve been let down by previous provisions, or the ‘system’, and we always seek to be the end point to the years of uncertainty and worry.
“We have built Kedleston on that firm foundation and with a clear goal and drive to always be useful; useful to the young people and their families, and useful to the people who commission placements at our schools and homes.
“We open schools and homes where they are needed, where they meet a gap in provision and where they complement and enhance local provision and so part of our stability also comes from taking that approach to growing steadily and not over-reaching. It’s an approach which offers greater stability and allows us to continue to be useful to, and become part of, local communities.
“We have 13 schools and homes across England with a new provision in North London set to open next year to meet demand for places there. Equally, demand has been so high for Brookways School, in Sutton, that we will open an extension later this year. Both are examples of Kedleston responding to local demand from commissioners and being relevant to families and young people’s needs, in areas local to them.
“Over the years we’ve built a stable and established team of really experienced people, experts in specialist education, governance and safeguarding. The focus is very much on providing the best possible experience and outcomes for our children and young people and to ensure their well-being is always to the fore.
“Such is our absolute commitment to quality, over the last few years, our quality assurance team has grown very significantly. Quality and governance are embedded throughout every level of the organisation from the Board, through to our executive team and at school and home level. We all take an active role in driving quality and safeguarding from the ground up, and from the Board down.
“Our latest Non-Executive Director Paul Hegarty leads on Social Care quality assurance from a Board level. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the design, delivery and evaluation of children’s services, having worked at a senior level in Local Authorities covering all aspects of service delivery. He works closely with Lesley Cox (former HMI with Ofsted) who Chairs the Quality Assurance & Compliance Committee as well as Angela Nightingale (formerly Operations Director from another Independent sector provider).
“Together, they use all of their detailed knowledge and understanding of children’s services, along with awareness of the current practice, trends and contemporary thinking, to ensure standards are continually driven up. Children and parents feed into quality and governance too. For us their input is key and we listen to, and act upon, what they tell us.
“Our focus on quality is borne out in our statistics – all of our schools are rated good or outstanding. All of this gives combines to give us an incredibly stable foundation upon which to build.
“As we move forward to continue to grow from our stable base, our focus remains on creating a core portfolio of schools and homes which are needs driven, that are relevant to children and young people and their families and which, fundamentally, have children at the forefront of their thinking and design at all times.
“While COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought challenges for everyone, we feel well-equipped to work through the changes it brings, to respond quickly and robustly and to draw on the strength our stable foundation gives us to continue to provide the very best care and support for vulnerable young people.”
Above all, what matters most to our children are the quality and commitment of staff we have in our broader family. They have given countless hours to ensuring the safety, wellbeing and academic progress of our children through the pandemic and for this, I am immensely grateful but also humbled.”
On final thoughts, we asked Paul how Covid-19 will affect his outlook on the broader impact in society – he replied: “The pandemic is having a profound impact on society and indeed it has reached, on a very personal and negative level, far too many people.
“It’s something we will never forget, so if at all possible, we should use it to reset our priorities in life. We should always ask ‘what can we do better, how can we help others more, and then, push towards that endeavour.
“I’m a firm believer in what goes around comes around, so let’s face every day as a new one, where we can do a little more than we did yesterday.”