“Know, your kids and your staff and your kids dictate what you do in school no matter what decision you do how is this affecting my children in school” – Marie Neave
Here is a truly inspirational journey, Marie Neave’s career from teacher to Executive Head, from History to Autism. Marie is a go-to Leader in the Lewisham and Autistic niche with years of experience to call upon. The work she is doing with Drumbeat is nothing less than fantastic. Enjoy the webinar.
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for show notes, transcript and links…
[00:40] What took Marie in Teaching?
[04:32] How Marie ended up in PRU and SEN
[07:04] Maires biggest learns in her early teaching
[08:44] Marie’s mentors and who inspired her
[10:29] The transition to Headship
[11:34] How she overcame her main challenges
[12:46] Becoming an education consultant
[14:51] Marie’s achievements at this time
[16:07] Drumbeat and the start of a new chapter!
[18:38] Current initiatives in Drumbeat EAL and Autism
[20.:11] ASD extended service for schools
[21:29] Future plans for Drumbeat
[23:26] How Marie gets away from the daily grind
[24:43] Contacting Marie
Lee Stanley 0:06
Hello and welcome to Hadfield Educations good to great webinar series where I interview the leading head teachers from across the UK. And today I’m joined by Marie Neave, who is the Executive head teacher for drumbeat school and ASD service around the Lewisham area. Good morning, Marie. How are you?
Marie Neave 0:27
Good morning, Lee. I’m good.
Lee Stanley 0:29
Excellent, excellent. What I like to do Marie is always start at the beginning and and find out sort of what took you into teaching. So where did it all begin?
Marie Neave 0:40
Well, I was born in Derry in Northern Ireland, and I was born into teaching family. My mum and dad are both teachers, one primary school and one maths teacher in secondary school. And I was born right at the Beginning of the troubles in Northern Ireland, and we had a big emphasis on education in Northern Ireland and particularly from my family as well. So it was very important. It was our way forward. It was also our way out. And I enjoyed I enjoyed my years in education and Northern Ireland they were good. But I went on to a degree in Dublin and turned to college, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher, and then changed my mind and thought, well, I’ll get the qualification. I came to London, went to the Institute of Education, and I sort of got the bug and history teacher and I met a teacher head of history in a school called Cannons High in. It’s not Harrow, but it’s in my area and Brent, and it was a challenging school. But this history teacher was very inspirational. And I ended up doing her maternity cover. And that was that was that really? I was teaching in London then history for years. And I then moved to Kent was head of history and Medway in a large secondary school there, Gillingham. Again, quite a deprived area. But great, great school, great experience, and then decided, at that point, I had two girls, two young girls are the local part time and eventually went into the world of pupil referral units and that was interesting trying to teach history to kids that were excluded and in gangs basically all boys. And but it was very it was interesting and exhilarating, I really had to teach and sort of went from one thing to another and ended up then being a Head in Bromley in a in charge of three schools three pupil referral units in Bromley and decided that I’d set up my own business and did five years doing educational consultancy, worked for Harris in Beckenham and also Kent county council for four years doing senior improvement advisor. And I then decided I really missed headship and decided to come back in in Lewisham. This is my fourth year in drumbeat school, I’m enjoying being part of a big family of a lot of staff. And a lot of kids are over 200 now, and it’s really good. Yeah.
Lee Stanley 4:17
So what took you into the, the Pru and the special needs and sort of niche within education and because it’s it’s not something that like suits everybody what what was your sort of calling?
Marie Neave 4:32
Well, it wasn’t a calling it was to do with family requirements and it was very flexible, I could do part time. And I was given quite a lot of flexibility and what I could teach, you know, within sort of boundaries of GCSE but, there was all sorts of things that you could do outside of that as well. And I really started enjoying creating a curriculum that suited the needs of the children rather than being told that this is what you have to teach in history and this is what they have to get. And I really enjoyed that. And I thought this is this is great, you know, this is this is real proper personalised education and then sort of achieving stuff that that you people generally couldn’t do around the behaviour and around the qualifications.
Lee Stanley 5:26
Marie Neave 5:27
because the kids have been excluded a lot of them were SEN and children and care white working class boys, so it was all that growth but just being able to do something with that was was very interesting really sort of captivated my sort of drive to do something in education that made a big difference.
Lee Stanley 5:53
So quite a diverse, like you say, learner compared to when you first walked through the door into into education into just mainstream mainstream schools.
Marie Neave 6:05
Yeah, I think I’ve never sort of worked with anything that wasn’t really diverse because, you know, I was in southeast London and Woolwich for nearly five years and an all boys school and Woolowich Poly. And that was that was extremely challenging for a young woman. But again, it was, it was great. The needs were extremely diverse, just getting them to A levels and university was a challenge. And yes, so that that is that has always been my sort of audience, that sort of group that is hard to get too hard to interest how to engage. And families that weren’t that interested in education. So just being able to do something with that was quite good.
Lee Stanley 6:59
And what was The biggest learns in the early stage of your of your teaching career,
Marie Neave 7:04
Get the behaviour, right. That was massive. Because the, you know, the biggest challenge in these skills was getting the kids to to behave. And having really strict boundaries, having a staff like Woolwich Poly, you know, you have a staff that really backed you up, you had a lot of older members of staff who would step in to support bring the kids out if needed. And these were really tough kids. But alongside that, because there’s no point in having kids that can behave, if you’re not teaching and just really getting the curriculum, right, I changed the curriculum quite radically was a lot of work. Just to get them engaged with the learning and it was the old school’s history project, which was was real sort of new approach to history evidence approach to history.
Lee Stanley 8:02
Marie Neave 8:03
And the kids, the kids really loved it. It was good and getting your topics right. Gone. no interest in boys. Yeah. To read. But yeah, no, that was that was that was a great, great start. You know, if you get in somewhere like that and a deep end, you’re not going to apart from when you go to PRU, you’re not going to meet anything that’s going to sort of overwhelm you too much after that.
Lee Stanley 8:29
Sure. And in terms of the progression, and what were what was who would the the mentors really that that stood out to you and gave you again, insight that really helped you along your career path?
Marie Neave 8:44
in my career? I think I I’ve always had a bit of a problem with mentors. I don’t know why I just it’s been hard to get them. And I think I’d be more inspired by other strong females that have done well, you know. I remember a head of Science she’s gone on to be an Ofsted inspectors. But she was she’s great, you know the way that her humour her strength, the way that she taught was really different. How she engaged the boys there with science as well. So, you know, it’s been individuals along the way and you know, knowing what my mother was like in the classroom she was very inspirational to me and what she had raised six kids, you know, and on still work and, you know, still be this, you know, tower of strength and she’s about to turn 90 So,
Lee Stanley 9:44
Marie Neave 9:44
Yeah, so um, you know, we we’ve got quite a matriarchal family, five girls, very strong mother, and a granny that was inspirational to me as well. So trying to get that you know somewhere else is is is interesting when I was in the Pru in Bromley I had a extremely again inspirational mentor who was the ex head of specials or PRU in Richmond and she she gave me a lot of good advice because that was my first headship and that was really tough. So
Lee Stanley 10:26
how did you find the transition into into headship
Marie Neave 10:29
it tough when
Lee Stanley 10:31
what were the difficulties the main sort of challenges that you faced
Marie Neave 10:36
In a PRU its you there’s no there’s not much support around. It’s you know, who do you left the phone to? You know, when you’re a secondary head you’ve got a lot of other secondary heads that you talk to your the PRU in the borough.
Lee Stanley 10:52
Marie Neave 10:53
And you’ve got the most challenging kids in that borough that nobody else wants and You’re supposed to be providing the solution. So I think that that’s a big challenge. The work was colossal trying to get my staffing right because it’s like a social some sort of social club, you know, gift club. Yeah, wasn’t a school at all get my leadership team around me and all the time it’s a battle with the the authority to try and get things the way that you want to get it and get funding in place as well.
Lee Stanley 11:31
So how did you overcome those?
Marie Neave 11:34
I think I was probably quite difficult to just really battle to get cameras in so we could you know, make sure we got evidence of stuff that’s going on and move on that and just a lot of I’m network a lot in London, London challenge. I’m seeing the best you know, had thought there. Visited them see what they were doing. ask for advice, use my mentor. And that, that, that sort of thing and just really stay strong, but know that things are not always going to work out the way that you want them to work particularly in a PRU
Lee Stanley 12:18
Yeah, absolutely. So then you was that at the point that you took a break?
Marie Neave 12:22
And no, no, that’s when I went back in I took my break after being head of history for quite a while and did part time in a PRU and then when my youngest started going to Primary school I went in as head then,
Lee Stanley 12:39
Marie Neave 12:41
into the business thing. Yeah,
Lee Stanley 12:42
yeah. And then from there, so how did the business thing come about?
Marie Neave 12:46
Just I just thought to know what I’m, I wanted to become an academy to give us more sort of, you know, leeway with what we need to show couldn’t do that my thought. Right. That’s it. I just I’m gonna do something else. And so then I was approached for work and I did that for a while. But you are on your own, when you run the business, you’re on your own, you’re constantly wondering where you know, what’s what’s going to be next andhow long a contract gonna be so, which is fine, you know, went on for five years it was good learnt loads because you go right across, you know, a massive sector of different types of school. And you learn lots and you and you learn about school improvement, which is brilliant when he got back in as head, because you can just say this is this is what we need to be doing. Which can be quite hard if you’re just on the inside all the time, you know,
Lee Stanley 13:45
so was there a specific sort of elements that you would go in and help a school with or where their unique, just unique sort of tasks or opportunities?
Marie Neave 13:57
Yeah, so errm it depended where the score was, whether they were amber green or red, so special measures RI, you know, so depend depend on where they were supporting them through an inspection. Yeah, I did training with them I also was the lead for pupil premium across the Kent. I did a lot of training with all schools for that and did reviews did SEN reviews, but it really depended on where they were as a school. If it was like touch or focus more of a deep dive on, you know, looking up what the teacher was like training they needed how to improve progress and often as not only looking at the groups SEN and and and PP groups were usually a challenge and what we could do put in place to improve those results.
Lee Stanley 14:51
Excellent. And what achievements sort of stood out to you during that time.
Marie Neave 14:56
The the PRUs that there was 18 PRUs I was in charge of And when I left, they had all moved to good or outstanding. Where it was like a lot of them have been in special measures,
Results went through the roof, you know, five GCSEs is the aim and in PRU’s with the maths. So I work with Greenwich university to provide training on literacy. Okay, we can up that sort of quality of of teaching within the PRU’s. But yeah, it was that that was a great, that was a great achievement.
Lee Stanley 15:30
For you, what did that boil down to what were some of the key things that that really needed addressing to make such a big impact
Marie Neave 15:39
Teaching? It’s it’s always about teaching and learning and the quality of that and, and how it’s relating to the needs of the children and how you’re tackling attendance. And just making sure that the quality of what they are delivering is appropriate and that you’ve got that qualified teachers even though its a PRU? You need to have that qualified teacher in their place. Yeah.
Lee Stanley 16:07
Yeah. And then that brought you to Drumbeat, huh? Yes. Tell me tell me about Drumbeat is quite unique, isn’t it?
Marie Neave 16:15
Yeah, it’s um, so it’s I’m currently on the the new build the EFI belt. And it’s a school that is built for children with autism. And each classroom looks pretty much identical with a nightside area or hygiene area. Low arousal environment. So we have on this site we have our kids from early years right up to key stage three. And on the other side, it’s key stage four and key stage five. So our numbers have really gone up from being in the 150 Over 200 now and looking to expand we’ve just had pan increased. And that’s, that’s great. You know, we’ve got good staffing levels. And yeah, it’s a system that works really well.
Lee Stanley 17:18
Yeah. Fantastic. And what took you into the the autistic niche?
Marie Neave 17:23
And I just think it’s interesting, I’ve no background on it. I you know, and I think I was employed for the leadership and strategic things, but I’ve learned so much as a result of being here. And what the staff do to support these children who are the it’s it’s high, highly complex autism. So, you know, they they are real experts in their field on how to de escalate, how to manage the behaviour, how to, you know what, they’re all Teach trained. So making sure that the handling is right. But also big thing was the teaching again. So making sure teachings, right, your TA is now coming in with degrees and everything, which wasn’t the case before. So we’ve got highly qualified TA we have a programme where last year was five, but went on to, to to be teachers,
Lee Stanley 18:25
Marie Neave 18:26
Hopefully will get some of them back. And so we’ve got real sort of nice, CPD routes for all staff and leadership roles. And which works, which works really well.
Lee Stanley 18:38
Sure. Sure. And what current initiatives are you running within school?
Marie Neave 18:43
So we have just finished doing a new curriculum, so pathways for our children and new assessment process, and we’ve just had challenge partners and a couple of months ago, and We’re looking at we just identified we’ve got 33 languages,
Lee Stanley 19:03
Marie Neave 19:04
Within the school. So they are all children that speak different languages at home. And we’re looking at, you know, the immersion that they have when they come here that seems to work. So that whole EAL and how does that affect learning in autism is interesting. So we’re just about to launch on to that. And we’re working with again in ship Education Centre for Research for autism education. And just looking at other schools on and what they’re doing with that as well. And yeah, just looking at whether we can, you know, sort of branch out to this there’s a lot of children that have been sent out of borough, because theres not the places so to able to expand look at if we are able to have some sort of Centre for children who are more high functioning. So yeah, it’s um, there’s always something happening.
Lee Stanley 20:09
Tell me about the service or does the service involve
Marie Neave 20:11
okay? So services outreach and extended services. So outreach which is a team based here, support all skills within Lewisham we buy into the service for supporting autism within their schools. So they do training and they do support whatever the schools need, they buy in that level of service that they need across across primary and secondary, their their capacity is absolutely packed out the authority use them as well for EHCPs and attendance panels and things like that placement of children. But it’s very useful because they work with early years as well, so that they know a lot of our kids are looking to be placed here. They can give us advice on appropriateness of that child for for Drumbeat, extended services is a holiday. And so during the holidays, we run a school here so the parents can go through the authority to get time in the in the school at holidays, so, yeah,
Lee Stanley 21:23
Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. And what future plans do you have with with school?
Marie Neave 21:29
Erm expand I think, because funding has been extremely challenging, that’s taken up most of my time, the last two years. Um, we’ve had big cuts that we’ve had to make. And therefore that’s, you know, we’ve got to expand and to make sure that we have the money in the budget to go forward. Sure. So it is about expansion, possibly a new build, or build on a build and just get the numbers on seats. I’d like to do the national qualification personal improvement advisor, which I put in for that’s interesting. And just develop further that way,
Lee Stanley 22:15
and what advice would you would you give to any aspiring Headteacher in particular, say teachers that are currently within sort of a PRUor a special needs environment.
Marie Neave 22:28
Um HR are your best friend. Make sure that you follow them like the Bible. Because it’s very easy to go wrong on staffing issues have a schools business manager good one in place because your budgets gonna drive you nuts. And I would say you know, your kids and your staff and your kids dictate what you do in school no matter what decision you do how is this affecting my children in school. Look after your staff look after well being look after yourself, you know, cuz it’s quite easy not to and just make sure you have that work life balance don’t burn yourself out.
Lee Stanley 23:22
So how do you do that? How do you get away from the daily grind?
Marie Neave 23:26
And I do yoga, I run I’ve got dogs and and yeah that’s that’s what I do and I’ve got good friends to talk to
Lee Stanley 23:41
and in terms of what book what book you’re reading at the moment
Marie Neave 23:46
I’m trying to get started on education is talking about you and education and girls on the autism spectrum. Okay I’m interested in the girls thing. It’s there’s quite a lot of stuff going on that because we’ve had a Big rise in numbers and diagnosis of girls with autism. So thats interesting and so I’m going to get started.
Lee Stanley 24:08
Fantastic. And what about you? So let’s say we’re speaking about getting away from the daily grind. What Where’s your favourite holiday destination where do you like to get away to?
Marie Neave 24:17
Oh, wow, Ireland. I’ve we’ve go to Donegal a lot. And yeah, just get grounded. And no it no digital marketing, which is nice. France Dordogne. And I like New York is amazing. But I just I like my holidays.
Lee Stanley 24:43
Sounds like it. Yes. Okay. And what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Marie Neave 24:50
Oh, by email probably is the best. Yeah. So, tomorrow to get my email.
Lee Stanley 24:57
Yeah, yeah, you can do.
Marie Neave 24:58
Yeah, so it’s me. firstname.lastname@example.org we have a lot of visitors that come here. So you’re you’re very welcome to come and have a look
Lee Stanley 25:12
fantastic. And what about social, social profile and social media? Are you do you have sort of all the Facebook and Twitter
Marie Neave 25:18
now? I don’t know, just LinkedIn.
Lee Stanley 25:22
Okay. Okay, what I’ll do, I’ll add the links on to onto this, this webinar. So people can always click and they can always connect with you that way. And, and like say they can let you say they can email and reach out to you.
Marie Neave 25:37
Lee Stanley 25:38
Excellent. Well, thank you ever so much for your time. It’s been really really insightful and and a great example of sort of the good work that you’re doing within the the SEN and particularly your artistic sort of niche of education. And I really appreciate appreciate your time.
Marie Neave 25:54
Lee Stanley 25:55
Thank you so much. Okay,
Marie Neave 25:57