About Us: a potted historyphoto-learn2live

Learn to Live is a collaborative movement which is not for profit but for the benefit of children, young people and their families. Ellen Tinkham Special School has been working on person centred approaches for over ten years and is constantly seeking ways to improve. Development is now led by a collaboration of primary, secondary and special schools working with families and staff.

Led by Jacqui Warne, Ellen Tinkham has achieved judgements of outstanding in its last two Ofsted inspections and interim subject inspections. The school caters for children with learning needs and impairments that are profound, complex and/or severe. The Learn to Live model provides the way of gathering bothday to day and strategic information to ensure that the school’ s services and developments are built around the needs and ambitions of children, young people and their families. This means, for example, the school uses:

  • Listen to me to design the curriculum
  • Uses ‘what’s working and not working’ (from the feedback of the children and young people) to create the school development plan.

Jacqui and her colleagues developed the ideas of Helen Sanderson and worked with Simon Duffy of The Centre of Welfare Reform www.centreforwelfarereform.org/ and Pippa Murray of IBK www.ibkinitiatives.com/home to form Learn to Live. In 2011 the school decided that the development was too good to keep to itself and that it needed to work with others for Learn to Live to reach its full potential.

Debbie PritchardDebbie Pritchard was asked to give capacity to the co-ordination and development. Her roles include working with the parent groups, chairing the board and researching the impact of the approach.

A conference was held in November 2011 at Tiverton, Devon. At the conference the developing movement captured the information of those present and some signed up to become foundation members and the core of the Learn to Live Board.

Okehampton College, an outstanding mainstream secondary school, started to use elements of Learn to Live. Led by Director of Inclusion, Charlie Edwards, the school now uses Learn to Live for transition to the school, children with special educational needs, those whose behaviour could lead to exclusion and children in care. The school has many case studies of the positive effects of Learn to Live and is at the forefront of the development of the movement.

Bidwell Brook Special School federated with Ellen Tinkham to form the Learn to Live Federation in 2014. This has provided a case study of developing the approach from scratch.

Whilst the movement started in a special school its power is universal. This is because it is about the whole child and thus anyone who works or lives with that child will learn more about them and how they can ‘be the best they can.

In 2014 the movement got a grant from the Devon Education Forum to support the roll out in Devon schools. The movement continues to be a not for profit organisation which relies heavily on the good will, passion and commitment of those involved. Parents give their time freely to support the development both for themselves and their children and the children of others.

The Learn to Live Board provides oversight and a sounding board and consists of parents and foundation members.

Jacqui WarneJacqui Warne: born and bred in Devon, Jacqui Warne began her career as a teacher working for the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) in residential special schools which provided challenging experiences and much learning. Following work in Surrey Jacqui moved to Ellen Tinkham Special School in Exeter initially as deputy head, then as headteacher and now as executive head for the Learn to Live Federation. EllenTinkham is an Investors in People champion (having achieved more than gold standard), Inclusion Quality Mark as well as outstanding judgements by Ofsted in the last two inspections and interim subject inspections.

Jacqui Warne is also well known for her parking skills, wacky sense of humour, creativity and amazing drive to improve.

Christine Walker is the powerhouse of organisation who keeps Jacqui in order and manages very well in testing circumstances. Her design skills and creativity have been significant in making sure that the concepts of Learn to Live can be clearly presented. Christine has worked in a variety of areas including breweries; sales and marketing; and recruitment.

Debbie Pritchard feels privileged to work with the parent groups at Bidwell Brook and Ellen Tinkham; she also chairs the Learn to Live Board. Previously a teacher Debbie worked for Devon County Council in children’s services and is now thoroughly enjoying working on a freelance basis.

Charlie Edwards

I am the Director of Inclusion and Safeguarding at Okehampton College, which is a large rural secondary school catering for students from 11-18. We are also federated with four Primary schools and work closely with others under the Co-Operative Schools Movement.

I have also worked as the Head of Learning Support and SEN at the College and worked with local primaries on SEN and Transition.

Working full-time on Child Protection and with students with challenging behaviour and difficulties around social, emotional skills and mental health, as well as teaching English and History, my priorities are always to work more efficiently but also in a more impactful way.

Additionally being a busy mum of two young children (and having a veritable menagerie of animals at home) time is most definitely precious!

Being kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle (plato?) is very much an ethos that we try to work to understanding individuals better is a core part of supporting them more effectively. My focus at school is the most vulnerable students, including Children In Care, and being able to hear their voice more clearly has been the most powerful change in my working practice in my 12 years of teaching.