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Natspec National Conference 2024


11 June 2024
12 June 2024


Crowne Plaza Stratford-upon-Avon
West Midlands CV37 6YR United Kingdom + Google Map


Natspec conference team

Table of contents


The Natspec National Conference returns to The Crowne Plaza in Stratford-upon-Avon on 11 and 12 June 2024. Now established as the go-to event for FE professionals who work with students with EHC plans and / or funded through the high needs system, it offers a wealth of learning and networking opportunities.

Across the two-day programme we will be reflecting on our sector’s greatest asset: the staff who make up the specialist FE workforce. Over the past few years the whole FE sector has faced a recruitment crisis; nowhere has this been felt so sharply as within SEND provision. In order to progress and achieve, our learners require staff with up-to-date expertise in a wide variety of job roles across education, health and social care. It is the staff in our colleges, after all, that make them ‘specialist’.

Through our keynote speeches and breakout sessions, we will be considering how to support and develop staff, what management approaches will help us get the best from staff of all ages and at all levels, and how to provide leadership against a backdrop of financial pressures, SEND system reform and uncertainty about the future. The conference will also include a session entitled ‘Apply your own oxygen mask before helping others’ in which a series of experts will advise college leaders on the importance of looking after their own wellbeing.

The range of topics being covered in our breakout sessions is more diverse than ever. Whether it’s AI, intersectionality, positive behaviour support, Total Communication, forest schools, the menopause-friendly workplace, or meeting local skills needs, there will be something on the menu of interest to you. You will also hear from government officials and sector leaders and have the opportunity to question and challenge them. As always, our student speakers will offer fresh perspectives as they remind the room why the work our sector does really matters. And you’re sure to be wowed by our student performers.

The conference programme leaves plenty of space for you to network with other SEND professionals and to find out about the products and services offered by our exhibitors. We hope you leave with fresh ideas, new connections, energy and inspiration and we look forward to seeing you there.

For those staying at the venue on the Monday night before conference, you might be interested to attend a special event, hosted by Natspec and National Star, in memory of former Natspec Chair and National Star Principal, Kathryn Rudd, who sadly died in August 2023. Please come along if you knew Kathryn, or want to hear more about her legacy, and would like to join us for a chance to #RaiseAGlass to Kathryn and recognise her tremendous contribution to SEND in FE. There will also be opportunity to share any favourite memories of Kathryn throughout the evening, if you’d like to do so. Booking for this event is separate to the conference booking; please visit the ‘Celebrating Kathryn’ booking page to secure your place. Ticket price will include a welcome drink and food. All proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Kathryn Rudd Opportunity Fund.

If you have any queries about the conference not answered on this page, please email

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Booking for the conference is now open!

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Natspec members:

Two day residential delegate – £450+VAT

One day delegate – £205+VAT

All Natspec members also get one free place per college – this needs to be selected in the booking process to take effect.

Natspec affiliates:

Two day residential delegate – £505+VAT

One day delegate – £230+VAT

Find out more about Natspec affiliation

Non member colleges and all other organisations:

Two day residential delegate – £595+VAT

One day delegate – £255+VAT


Please note that Monday accommodation can also be booked at an additional cost (details on the booking form).


View the full interactive programme

Tuesday 11 June

09.00 Registration, networking, exhibition and refreshments
10.00 Conference welcome: Lynette Barrett, Natspec Chair and student speaker

Keynote: A happy workforce

Dr Paul Redmond, Director of Student Experience and Enhancement at the University of Liverpool, helps organisations and professionals acquire the skills and knowledge to navigate today’s multi-generational workplace. He believes that a happy workforce holds the keys to a thriving organisation and speaks on how to engage and motivate an intergenerational workplace

Keynote: The FE Commissioner’s view on the FE workforce and latest policy update

Shelagh Legrave, FE Commissioner, will speak about her role and the work of the commissioner’s office, focussing in particular on challenges and pressures on leaders, managers and governors. She will also provide a policy update for the FE sector and explore how specialist FE might learn from some of the solutions that have been put in place in General FE Colleges.

11.30 Breakout session 1
12.45 Lunch, exhibition and networking
14.15 Breakout session 2
15.30 Refreshment break and networking
16.00 Hot topics for specialist FE

Two panels of expert contributors will explore: a) the increasing need for SEMH provision b) recruiting, retaining and developing an expert workforce

This session will be interactive with opportunities for Q&A and debate with the panel members

17.15 Break and room check-in, with a further opportunity for networking, to relax or use the hotel’s leisure facilities
19.00 Drinks reception and student entertainment
19.45 Conference dinner

The conference dinner will include performances by students at Natspec colleges

Wednesday 12 June

08.30 Registration, networking and exhibition
09.15 Conference welcome: Lynette Barrett, Natspec Chair, and student speaker

Keynote: The future of specialist FE within the wider SEND/ALN systems in England and Wales

Chair and CEO address: Lynette Barrett and Clare Howard will provide an overview of the specialist FE sector, highlighting the trends in provision, and present a vision for the sector, including Natspec’s role within it.

Department for Education update, including lessons learned from trialling elements of the SEND and AP improvement plan through the Change Programme, and latest information on the Safety Valve and Delivering Better Value programmes

Speakers from Ofsted and Estyn

Q&A to speakers

11.10 Refreshment break and networking
11.45 Breakout session 3
13.00 Lunch, exhibition and networking
14.00 Keynote session: Apply your own oxygen mask before helping others

Self-care for leaders and staff wellbeing

Our expert speakers include

Dr Sophie Bostock, founder of the Sleep Scientist, an advocate for the importance of sleep, an expert in the science behind the benefits of sleep and how to improve sleep patterns to boost wellbeing and performance.

Kimberley Wilson, Chartered Psychologist with a masters degree in nutrition and author of “How to build a healthy brain” on the links between nutrition and mental wellbeing

This session is sponsored by TG Escapes modular eco-buildings

15.45 Closing remarks: Clare Howard, Natspec Chief Executive
16.00 Conference close and refreshments to go

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Tuesday 11 June

  • Positive Psychology – Jo Price, British Institute for Learning Disabilities (Bild)
  • High quality careers education, information, advice and guidance for learners with SEND – Kelly Dillon, The Careers & Enterprise Company
  • Specialist LSAs – Matthew Jefferson, Natspec Associate
  • Making quality assurance count – Dawn Green, Natspec Quality Improvement Lead
  • What is total communication and how can a specialist FE setting establish a total communication environment? – Alison Matthews, Total Communication Services
  • Developing an effective senior leadership team – Franki Willams and Jane Ragless, Natspec Associates and Leadership Coaches
  • Exploring intersectionality within specialist settings – Frances Akinde and Klaudia Matasovska, SEND Specialists
  • How do I become more strategic? – Simon Whitehouse, Leadership and Management Specialist
  • Forest Schools in FE – Harriet Menter, Scotswood Garden

Wednesday 12 June

  • Influencing post-college transitions – Libby Wilkins and Lynsey Ritchie, The Oaks Specialist College
  • Embedding the Ambitious Approach – Viv Berkeley and Dr Jude Mortell, Ambitious about Autism
  • Learners as agents for change – Andrew Evans, Natspec Learner Voice Co-ordinator
  • AI – what can it achieve for learners and staff? – Helen Nicholson, Jisc
  • How can specialist colleges contribute to meeting local skills needs? – Gareth Ivett and Stacey Morris, Creating Tomorrow College
  • Developing your college governance structure – Bernie White, Seashell Trust, and Poppy Lindsley, Ambitious about Autism
  • Towards a menopause-friendly workplace – Zoe Wright, David Lewis College
  • Becoming a Natspec Transform associate – Yola Jacobsen, Natspec Transform Manager
  • Trauma-informed positive behaviour support (PBS) – Jane Johnson, Orchard Hill College

Sponsors and exhibitors

DatabridgeMIS and AssuredPartners Hettle Andrews logos

We are delighted to have DatabridgeMIS and AssuredPartners Hettle Andrews as our 2024 Conference sponsors.

“DatabridgeMIS cater ONLY to the specialist sector ensuring colleges, schools, care homes and other organisations get the product they need and are the driving force of its development.”

“AssuredPartners Hettle Andrews are specialist insurance broking and risk managers to independent special schools and colleges. We are a broking consultancy who put quality and commitment to our clients first, and we look forward to sharing this experience with you at conference.”

You’ll be able to meet with our sponsors in our exhibition, which will also feature the following organisations, with more to be announced:

Our exhibitors will once again be forming a key part of our conference so if you’d like to exhibit, don’t miss your chance to book your stand! This year, we’re also looking for several key sponsors for our student volunteer t-shirts, our interactive wellbeing keynote session, and our drinks reception. For further details of any of these opportunities, please contact

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