Department of Education

Virtual Training – Interview with Gary Morrissey, Teaching School Director, The Bridge London

One of our first partners to launch virtual AET training courses during the pandemic, Gary speaks about his experiences with online training delivery. Please read our interview below.

How long have you been an AET partner?

We tendered a proposal to partner the AET in 2010 – 2011, at roughly the same time as applying for designation to the National Teaching School programme. This was the very start of our journey to reshape the way that we approached support, professional development and Autism understanding.  Commitment to long term partnerships, networks and drivers for change with shared values.

Could you please list some of your organisation’s professional achievements in the field of SEND and autism education (for the introduction)?

  • Lead for first London School Direct [Initial Teacher Training] Strategy Group with members including representatives from all key provider settings; Primary, Secondary, Special, SCITT, University plus Teaching School Council, National College and DfE.
  • Hub Lead for Challenge Partners [CP] London Special & AP Hub – 42 members. The largest of 44 hubs across a national membership of over 475 schools and academies. Host Peer Reviewer and SEND Reviewer Training.
  • Regional Lead for the DfE 7 Aspects of Engagement Pilot.
  • London Hub for Edge Hill University with SEND programmes ranging; Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and SENCo Award.
  • London Hub for NHS Mental Health programmes (Knowledge & Understanding Framework)
  • Hub and ITT partner provider for Goldsmiths University with programmes ranging; PGCE, Masters and ITT SEND.
  • Range of over 26 programmes from 1 – 10 days based entirely on evidence based practice; Autism, PMLD, SLD, ADHD, Early Years, SEMH, Behaviours, Leaders for London.
  • Invitations to present at local, national and international events and programmes, ‘Understanding ModernGov’, ‘Westminster Education Forum’, ‘Ofsted’ including the last two International Society for Autism Research [INSAR] conferences in San Francisco and Rotterdam respectively.
  • NLE Chair & Attendance on following boards and national steering groups;
    • Challenge Partners Senior Partners & Hub Managers Board, Strategy & Commissioning Board for Children & Young People with Disabilities and their families, Special Schools Voice (SSV), SEND Forum, Chartered College of Teaching, Schools Forum, Education Improvement Strategy Group.
  • Host a range of conferences & programmes bi-annually; GLADE/BATOD Ewing Foundation, Sensory Spectacle, ADDISS, SENSE Intervenor programme, Lyfta workshops.

The world has changed enormously almost overnight. What are the short term and long term impacts of Covid-19 on the education sector and autism education support?

The long-term impacts are beyond what I can cover here but will almost certainly [in my opinion] centre on communication, collaboration and partnership.  Whatever the strategies that will be shaped in education and autism support, I believe we will see a more ‘connected’ series of interventions driven initially by efficiencies in communication.

For example, it will be very interesting to see how outreach service provision will be shaped by this period of change.  Will some form of staff rotation become the norm to accommodate projects, planning and CPD?

How can we mitigate the negative implications?

Again, collaboration and partnership is my feeling.  Share and learn from our networks. Even in these ‘unprecedented’ times, there is a rapidly growing knowledge bank willing to share, test and begin to evidence very quickly what is working in all settings.

How do you see the future of autism education?

Now if I could tell you that …… If I restrict myself to Professional Development, the direction of travel has been set for some time, but the speed restrictions have now been removed somewhat.  I’m confident that in time we will return to a level of face to face, joint practice development and well attended conferences. What level and when, it would be foolish to predict but always be prepared.  Regardless, the direction and future is certainly going to be blended.

You are delivering AET training online at the moment. Could you please tell us about your experiences?

We approach our strategy and business model for the Teaching School to be lean, flexible and reflective. As with all providers we have to be sustainable and therefore we keep our services diverse. What happens if one areas stops …… what happens if two …… you get opportunity, with greater capacity to develop additional projects and services.  We agreed the team and the time to sustain and support the key areas that remain and reshaped roles to work on skills and system development to explore potential.

What AET modules have you been able to deliver online/are you planning to deliver online?

Our delivery team began to very quickly review adaptable content for online delivery including Making Sense of Autism and Good Autism Practice.  Our project team in parallel, reviewed suitable delivery vehicles; Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams predominantly.  We brought it all together and invited individuals to the pilot.  It was important to gauge as much as we could from the pilot; invitation, administration, security, delivery, engagement.  We have now gone to ‘market’ with a pilot proposal of 10 sessions between now and the end of May, including two for Making Sense of Autism.

What platform do you use and why?

For many reasons, we have now focussed on Zoom for delivery. We have adopted Teams for [guess what] our Team project collaboration and meetings recommending Skype for one to one with parents and individual support.  We are aware of other providers having much success with other systems but for our team operation and having explored the market/client base, we are progressing with this.

What challenges have you had to overcome so far and what was the feedback from delegates?

Feedback was positive and so was the overall experience. We had a number of things we needed to explore as mentioned earlier, across the whole system of ‘getting to market’ and operating as a team effectively and efficiently.  We’ve tested bandwidth, videos, backgrounds, HD, Enhanced, host actions, protocols ……. We have focussed our offer on experience and engagement and thus limited numbers to 12. We will get better, but I am happy that we are ready to offer a VFM quality experience.  Two facilitator pilot to follow ……

How have you advertised the online training?  What has take-up been like?

We have gone for a targeted approach to advertising but have used our usual marketing systems for campaigns.  We included a short survey in the campaign to establish ‘interest’ without initial commitment and to identify priorities within settings.   Alongside, we contacted our ‘bespoke’ clients directly to offer an online option to bookings that were due to be postponed/cancelled/rescheduled.  Let’s say that I am ‘encouraged’ by the take-up.  First campaign went out late on Friday 17th April and we were responding to enquiries and bookings when we logged in on Monday 20th.

What is the cost of the online training courses?

Pricing is clearly identified as a Pilot cost across the 10 sessions and is on a sliding scale according to number of spaces booked; 20, 10, 5.  With an individual delegate price at highest end of the scale.  Bespoke remains according to our normal structure.

Would you recommend education professionals use this time for professional development and learn about autism?

I am bound to say YES, YES, YES!  But settings must clearly work through their own immediate priorities.  The market is being flooded presently by untested, unverified [in terms of quality] offers of FREE training, introductory offers, NEW courses and even FULLY FUNDED PROGRAMMES which actually come out of your Apprenticeship Levy.  People are being bombarded!!  I believe it is important, rather essential, that we, the AET maintain our identity within the market as the leading national providers in autism awareness and understanding – even if all settings are not ready to fully engage online just yet.

Where can people find out more about your online AET training courses?

Our programme has been released to specific groups within our networks directly but we at The Bridge are always, always happy to share what we have learned.  We are absolutely aware that many partners within our AET family have been in this market far longer than we and I relay our experiences only according to our setting and how we operate – we know we have much work to do.

I would add that our role as a Strategic Partner is paramount  and we will prioritise supporting our hub partners in the first instance but please, if anyone else wants to contact do please feel free: training@thebridgelondon.co.uk.


Lost your password?