Chris Groom – Head of Service

I am writing to introduce myself as the new Head of Service at Underley Garden School. I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to be working with you on the next phase of the Underley journey. On my recent visit, it was great to see how the commitment and hard work of all staff impacts on the daily lives of the children and young adults in your care.

We will continue to develop together, to ensure we provide the best education and care for the whole Underley community.

Some of you may well be wondering who Chris Groom is and what he is about.  I have worked in education in both Secondary and SEND settings for over twenty years, ten of which have been at a senior level.  Prior to taking on this role I was employed by the Outcomes First Group in the capacity of Headteacher at Longdon Park School.  During this time, I have taken great pleasure in empowering staff to make Longdon Park a great school. I believe everyone has the potential to be a leader and part of my role is developing and nurturing this capacity at all levels.   I also really believe that the decisions we make should always have a positive impact on the children and young adults in our care.

April Boyd – Head Teacher

After completing her Primary Teaching degree at Edge Hill University in 2011 April began her teaching career at Underley Garden.  April began teaching a KS3/4 class for 3 years before Underley Garden expanded to open their Primary provision, Holly Trees. With her Primary background, April developed the provision with the expectation it would enable primary children to access a broad and balanced curriculum which met their individual needs and allowed them to reach their full potential.  “I am very proud of what Holly Trees has become and the exceptional work the staff do to ensure the children are not only progressing well but also enjoying their school experience. Holly Trees has been open for nearly three years and continues to thrive with happy children”.

After successfully developing and leading Holly Trees, April became one of the Assistant Head Teachers at Underley Garden in 2016. She is currently completing the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership and in April 2018 became Head of School at Underley Garden.

“I thoroughly enjoy working at UG and seeing the fantastic progress our young people make both educationally and socially. It is such a pleasure to see children and young people socialising and seeing relationships with both staff and peers grow. Many of our young people have not had this experience before attending UG so this is great to see.”

“Underley Garden is a special place – the staff are an invaluable tool and enable the children and young people to be the best they can be. Our children and young people need that little extra help to succeed and our staff are vital in achieving this and I am proud to be part of this team.”

“Every child has the right to access an education and reach their full potential and at Underley we endeavour to achieve this. Seeing the journey the children and young people go on throughout their time at Underley is fantastic. There are many challenges and hurdles that both the staff and young people come across, however seeing their progress makes everything worthwhile. Working here is so rewarding.” 

April is excited to see Underley Garden continue to grow and succeed and looks forward to the successes both staff and the young people achieve.

Chris Kirkbride – Head of Care

I began my career at Underley Garden over 7 years ago and within that time I have moved through the organisations rank starting as Care Worker, Senior Care Worker and Deputy Manger until my recent appointment as Registered Manager. This career progression has afforded me an essential insight into every facet of the residential setting.

As a father of a severely disabled child I feel I have invaluable knowledge of what living with and caring for vulnerable young people entails. I always attempt to bring this personal touch to how I relate to the young people in our care but also to the family members and carers that also require our support. As a parent engaged in fighting for my own daughters’ voice to be heard I am passionate in advocating for the young people living at Underley Garden in the exact same manner.

Underley has provided me with a chance to further my own carer whilst at the same time enabling me to be involved in the most rewarding work I have ever known. At times the role can be extremely challenging but when you see the positive outcomes achieved and the difference this can make to a young person and their family then job satisfaction is unmatched.

I work alongside a dedicated team who all have the same ethos as myself and we push each other to achieve the best at all times for the young people in our care.

Craig Albon – Assistant Head

Craig came to work at Underley Garden 14 years ago, after a few years of experience in management of hotels.

During his time and progression at Underley Garden he has fulfilled various roles from Maintenance assistant back in 2004, Care worker, Learning Mentor, Teaching assistant including the delivery of Construction courses to post 16 students, Duty Manager and previously held the role of School Manager. In April 2018 Craig was appointed as Assistant Head responsible for behaviour, safety and outdoor education and educational visits.

Craig has recently completed an NVQ Level 5 in Leadership and Management. 

Craig said “The journey throughout the years has been challenging but rewarding, to have worked with and supported many young people during their school years has been fantastic, especially when young people arrive with a variety of challenges, then weeks, months if not years after you can see the changes that we’ve supported them in making, which the staff team and young people can be very proud of.”

“I am the safeguarding lead (DSL), and I’m responsible as the Educational Visits Coordinator (EVC)

The main part of my role is managing the operations of the school day, where I need to be prepared to manage any situations that arise, as even the best laid plans can change!

Analysing patterns in young people’s behaviour supports us to offer different approaches and strategies, this can be key in supporting the staff to overcome barriers to learning and well being, Being an advanced team teach instructor I can support with not just the analytical approach using the data, but with the knowledge and technical support that staff may require in positively supporting the young people.”

“Seeing the school and children’s home grow and improve as it’s currently doing, is such an exciting prospect for the future.”

Jo Savage- Assistant Head and SENCo

I have worked at Underley Garden for over 12 years; it is the most rewarding job I have ever experienced. My first position was a care worker and over the years I have been supported and encouraged to follow my dreams and become a teacher. I thoroughly enjoy planning and delivering innovative and engaging lessons and seeing my students grow in confidence and ability. I am now the Assistant Head and SENCo and I have the privilege to support and develop our students with complex needs who access our unique personalised curriculum, improving their independence skills, social and communication skills, functional skills and preparing them for their next step in life.

As the SENCo, I enjoy working as part of the onsite multi-disciplinary team, we work closely to identify students’ needs and plan their curriculum to meet their EHC targets. Where necessary we plan and implement interventions to remove any barriers to learning to enable our students to reach their full potential. I am also proud to lead our exciting new nurture group and nurture base working in partnership with the mental health practitioner and therapists.

Jennifer Heath – Lead Occupational Therapist and Organisational Practitioner for Health & Therapy

Jen qualified with a Masters in Occupational Therapy in 2010 and started working at Underley Garden as soon as she had graduated. Jen had ten prior years of teaching drama to a wide range of people and children with differing needs, whilst also working as a support worker for autistic adults, before qualifying as an occupational therapist. When Jen joined Underley Garden in 2010, the health and therapy team were a small group and fairly new in existence. Jen set up and developed the Occupational Therapy Service at Underley Garden, which has expanded (along with the rest of the health & therapy team) with the growing numbers of young people from just one OT to now three OT’s.

In 2014, Jen took on the role of Lead Practitioner for the Therapy Team (which was later to include Health also). A focus for this role was to integrate health & therapy further into the school and children’s’ home and develop ways for us all to work even more effectively together. One of the projects created was the ‘joint targets’. This is a process enabling school, care and therapy to work together with the young person, in developing a set of five main goals that are focused on, monitored and reviewed each term. In 2016, Jen and Dr. Joanna Simm evaluated the joint targets process with staff, finding consistent evidence that joint targets support the different teams to work more effectively together in order to achieve better outcomes for the young people.

Jen has completed postgraduate training in Sensory Integration (SI). She is a qualified SI practitioner and is this year completing the final, advanced modules with the Collaborative for Leadership in Ayres Sensory Integration; in order to be able to offer the young people at Underley garden SI therapy. The other Occupational Therapists within the team are also completing this training.

Jen is extremely excited about the new SI therapy room, which will be opened later this year, at Underley Garden. It is a fantastic opportunity for the young people to be able to engage in this therapy. Research has demonstrated that SI therapy can be effective for young people with autism. https://www.evidence.nhs.uk/search?q=sensory+integration We are thrilled to be able to offer this, for young people, in the future at Underley Garden.

Jen has presented at various conferences including the Autism Show (2015, 2019) and the Royal College of Occupational Therapy (RCOT) Conference (2018). She is a member of the committee for the RCOT North West Children Young People and Families Specialist Section. Jen has also recently written a chapter on sensory needs and intensive interaction for a book, edited by Phoebe Caldwell, to be published in May 2019.