Severndale Academy in Shrewsbury – one of the largest special education needs academies in the country – has a new principal.
Brian Thomas has more than 20 years of experience in the sector, having previously worked in Birmingham and most recently at Wyre Forest School in Worcestershire.
A Lancastrian by birth, he has lived in Bridgnorth for the past decade with family connections to the Shrewsbury area, and considers himself to be an ‘adopted Salopian’.
“I love Shropshire, and have long followed the fortunes of Severndale, so the opportunity to now lead this school and take it forward is a real privilege,” he said.
Severndale Academy specialises in educating young people with moderate, severe and complex learning difficulties, and became part of the Learning Community Trust last year.
In addition to its main base at Monkmoor, it has a satellite centre at Mary Webb School & Science College in Pontesbury, and uniquely a 19-25 provision called Futures at Shrewsbury College’s campus on London Road. The academy currently has around 420 pupils, and a staff of 280.
Brian said: “I want to bring Severndale back to its origins as a special school once again, where we look at each pupil’s individual needs, work out what they require, and how we can provide it.
“We must put this at the very heart of everything that we do and ask ourselves – if this was my child, would I be happy with the educational that they are receiving with a special school environment? If the answer is no, then we have to put that right, and do better.
“I’m excited and incredibly motivated by what I have seen in my first few days. We have a special team of staff that work incredibly hard to support our young people and are committed to ensuring that we truly meet their needs.
“Working in special needs education is, for me, both extremely humbling and very inspiring.
“I believe we all can learn so much from our young people. They have all overcome incredible difficulties, but still always give 150% in the classroom and arrive with a big smile on their face every single day.”
Severndale caters for young people from the ages of 3-25 with a range of learning difficulties.
These include moderate, severe, complex and profound learning difficulties, those with autism, complex medical conditions and physical and mobility difficulties, and many have communication difficulties.
Brian added: “I feel I can help to give them the best possible opportunities – that’s what drives me on. We have some great plans, and I’m excited about the future.”
Dr Gill Eatough, chief executive of the Learning Community Trust, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Brian into our family.
“He shares our passion and vision for Severndale, to provide the very best school for children where they are happy, safe and enjoy school every day. “We want to ensure that their individual needs are met, and that they learn and make good progress, preparing them for life beyond school.”