Schools North East is the model for the new DfE-backed network to support business professionals in the special sector. Its deputy director, Pauline Aitchison, explains its success

While connectivity and collaboration are key improvement drivers for many aspects of school performance during normal circumstances, the coronavirus pandemic has illustrated that working together is vital in enabling our schools to overcome the toughest challenges. For colleagues in the special sector in particular, being part of a group that allows staff to share experiences specific to their type of school can be game-changing.

There are many obstacles to strong and effective collaboration, but when it comes to modelling what networking can look like and what it can achieve, the North East is truly leading the way. Schools North East is still the only school-led regional network in the country, and its work has been recognised at the highest level, with the Department for Education choosing to adopt its model for a new national network for School Business Professionals (SBPs) in the special sector.

The work the network does is vast

Schools North East consists of all 1,150 schools in the region. Our Partner Schools are at the heart of our model and their ongoing support has allowed us to work with and for all schools in the North East, and many beyond, supporting staff in all roles and at all levels. The work the network does is vast, from influencing policy by making our schools’ voices heard to running a thriving online community, and from providing important information and updates to running events and CPD sessions.

It is this model that forms the basis of the programme commissioned by the DfE, the National Network of Special Schools for School Business Professionals, or NNoSS for short. It is open to any professional in an administrative, finance, HR, operations or office role in a Special School or alternative provision.

The network will facilitate sharing best practice in the special sector nationally. It will lead, drive and deliver behaviour change in schools’ buying practices and be linked with wider regional and national networks. It will be a source of support, information, advice, guidance and continuing professional development for its members.

Schools North East is delighted to have been commissioned by the DfE to deliver this network and offer support to a sector of education which can often seem very isolated. Our goal is for all SBPs in maintained, free and academy AP and Special Schools to have access to this effective support network, and to make this network a powerful voice for SBPs in the special sector, building upon the many excellent local networks that already exist. This national group will work to engage with decision makers, policy makers and think tanks, and work to create efficiencies across the sector. It will also be a platform to celebrate everything that is wonderful about these diverse schools, and will be supported by advocates and ambassadors from across the country.

In the first week since the launch of NNoSS, SBPs from over 50 areas of England have already registered. It’s a great start from which to start building the network. After a tough few months for schools, this is excellent news for the sector, and something to look forward to in September.

If you would like to find out more about the network or register your interest, please visit https://nnoss.co.uk/ or email info@nnoss.co.uk