Ann Henderson – Regional Director / Chair of Governors

I am delighted to take up the post of Chair of Governors for Barton / Maple Grove / Underley Garden School.

My background is as a teacher, headteacher, local authority school improvement adviser for special educational needs, central government adviser to the department for education in relation to autism and most recently as director in two independent children’s service providers.

All my headteacher experience has been working with young people with autism.

When I am not at work I have 6 children, 9 grandchildren and 2 dogs, so I am always busy.

I am looking forward to working with Barton / Maple Grove / Underley Garden School to ensure all of our very exceptional young people reach their potential.

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.

Nic Harper – Deputy Head Teacher

I started my journey with Underley Garden School in 2011; after qualifying as a Primary Teacher I came to work in the care home to gain more knowledge and experience of working with young people with special needs, as this was where my passion lay. I moved over to the education team where I have worked as a teaching assistant, teacher, lead teacher of Holly Trees before going off to have my little girl. On return to school in April 2021, I was appointed Deputy Headteacher and it is my responsibility to ensure we are providing an engaging and inclusive curriculum. We strive to ensure all our young people enjoy coming to school and adapting curriculum and environments to ensure they suit their needs as well as supporting them to overcome barriers which prevent them from accessing things that they enjoy.

During my time as a class teacher and Lead of Holly Trees, I have watched so many young people go from strength to strength; not only progress academically but breaking down barriers and taking part in activities that they never thought they would be able to.

Since starting at Underley I have enjoyed my variety of roles and each one has given me a different perspective to what our young people need and enjoy; I am so proud of the environment we create to ensure that the pupils come here are happy and thriving to their individual needs.

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

I have worked at Underley Garden since 2005; I have to say it is the most rewarding job I have ever experienced. The young people we have the privilege to support at Underley Garden are all unique and wonderful, they have a wide range of needs and barriers to learning that can be a challenge at times. However, we are very fortunate to have knowledgeable multidisciplinary team who can meet to discuss possible solutions, interventions and resources to support our young people to engage in their learning and become the best version of themselves.

During my time at Underley Garden, I have partook in many job roles. Initially, I started as a care worker before moving onto the school team as a learning mentor. Over the years, I have been supported and encouraged to follow my dreams and become a qualified teacher. I then went on to complete my QTLS before gaining my National SENCo Award at Edgehill University.  I fulfilled the SENCo role for over 4 years at Underley Garden. In April 2018, I progressed further to Assistant Head and continue in this role today. Currently my main areas of responsibility are to manage and oversee our Post 16 provision as well as taking on the role as our Careers Leader to ensure our young people are prepared for their next steps. Throughout my teaching career at Underley Garden, I have taught a variety of subjects to a range of year groups. However, my passion has always been within Post 16. Therefore, it is a pleasure to work with the team to ensure our Post 16 provision is broad and balanced and meets the needs of all our young people.

I believe it is important to prepare and give our young people the necessary skills for the next steps in their life whether it be further education, supported living or the world of work and take pride in working with our team to ensure each young person’s curriculum enables them to do so. It is such a privilege to see them develop into the wonderful young people they become and the progress they have made during their time at Underley Garden.

Gemma Thompson – Assistant Head and SENCo

I have worked at UGS since 2012 and within that time have had many roles from TA to Complex Needs Teacher, and Lead Teacher for our complex needs classes. These have all given me the knowledge and experiences to be able to ensure I am able to support the young people in ensuring they have an impactful provision.

I completed my teacher training here at Underley and over the years have had many opportunities that have developed my love for SEN teaching. I am proud to be able to say that I supported the development of the Personalised Curriculum at Underley, and this continues to be one that aims to ensure all of our young people make progress- and every small step is celebrated. I aim to continue to ensure the curriculum is innovative and meets the ever-diverse needs of our students.

Another of my responsibilities is to ensure that all of the young people’s EHCP’s are being met, as well as ensuring a holistic approach is provided. At UGS we have a fantastic multi-disciplinary team of therapists, who have a wide range of specialisms. Part of my role is to ensure therapeutic input and curriculum are inter-weaved to provide the best for our complex young people.

Every child has the right to an education that allows them to reach their full potential and Underley provides that. It’s an amazing place to work, and you feel like you are part of something really special.