A conference effectively based on this blog post title does not sound a vitally interesting way of spending a whole day. Nonetheless as topics of this kind affect school governors generally, I was pleased to accept the invitation to attend.
Not having to travel to London during rush hours, is one of the delights of retirement so the conference time table from 08:45 to 17:00 hours was slightly daunting. None the less, Wimbledon being at the start of the two District lines on the London Underground, meant that at least the journey into town was straightforward and with ample seating room.
Indeed so efficient was the underground, that I decided to alight early at Victoria Station and walk to conference venue at Methodist Central Hall Westminster.
As it happens, I was passing by Westminster Cathedral at 8am just in time for the morning mass there. The congregation was spread widely around the large cathedral in typical English fashion, rather than occupying the front seats which would strictly, have made more sense. Nonetheless a calming thirty minutes mass before attending the conference was just what was needed.
The Methodist Central Hall itself has quite a history. It hosted the first United Nations assembly after WWII in 1946, not to mention Andrew Lloyd Webber's first public performance in 1968.
In fact with over 300 delegates, a large meeting room like that provided by the Central Hall proved to be essential.
The conference itself, despite its difficult subject matter and not overly attractive title, was excellent.
In addition to the Minister for Children and Young People who spoke briefly, two of the most interesting talks were given by senior staff of schools for special needs children, based in Croydon. The two senior managers recounted the area's difficulties, some of which recently featured on the national news following stabbings of four young people in Croydon.
An issue is that many ordinary schools are not really well equipped to deal with children with special needs. This means that permanent exclusions of such young people from mainstream schools tend to be relatively frequent. Schools specialising in special needs children may be a good way forward for some at least. We heard via video from a young lady who had been excluded from a mainstream state school then admitted to one of the Croydon group's schools where she did well in her public exams.
Reflecting though on the problems of violence in and about Croydon, which also happens to be one of the main centres of the country's immigration offices including their "compliance and enforcement teams" and reading in today's Sunday Times, about the large percentage of people living in London who are below the poverty line, raises question of why so many refugees and young new immigrants, are housed in the capital rather than being housed in less densely populated parts of the country? I cannot answer that question though thankfully I am not a politician.
The walk back to Waterloo station from Methodist Central Hall Westminster was enjoyable in the fair weather though crowded with tourists and there proved to be a reasonable amount of space on the rush hour train back too!