Stephanie Smith recently joined The Cavendish School as our new Deputy Headteacher. We’re thrilled to welcome her to the team and have asked her a few questions so that you can get to know her a little better:
- Tell us a bit about your background…
I have been involved with the autism community for over 10 years, working within mainstream primaries, secondaries and special needs schools. I trained in Mathematics at Stanground Academy, before going on to complete a national award for special educational needs coordination. Before joining The Cavendish School, I worked at Medeshamstede Academy in Peterborough, a similar sized school with just over 100 students, aged 4 – 16, with autism.
- How did you get started with your current work?
My work within the autism community all started as a personal interest. I was attending a variety of autism-focused courses, such as the National Autistic Society Early Bird course and, through this, I realised I wanted to become part of the solution to the educational barriers that the autism community faces; I wanted differences to be celebrated! I was inspired by a local SENDCo to train to be a teacher and pursue this ambition so I returned to education and here I am today, sharing the same mission.
- What challenges have you previously faced?
A challenge that I often find within my work is that there are a lot of prejudices and judgement within the world of autism education. Part of my job is to break these down. That is why The Cavendish School will be so important within the local community, we will be there to challenge stereotypes and build a strong and diverse community that is valued for its contributions.
- What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments?
Seeing my students grow to be happy and successful young adults who are engaging with their communities, further education and work, and knowing that I have given them the ability to be able to express their own voice and advocate for themselves.
Also, nurturing and supporting other professionals within my field to understand how autism affects young people and their families, how to be truly inclusive and how to remove the barriers sometimes faced.
- What inspires you?
The students and young people around me inspire me every day. You see how hard they work to be a part of their communities and achieve their goals. They are always striving to make the world a better place to live in, something which encourages me to do the same.
- What are you currently focusing on?
My main focus is to open The Cavendish School the right way, with a holistic curriculum that is focused on the individual needs of each student, so that they can each achieve their dreams.
I will be there to support families through the complexities, struggles, achievements and joy of raising a young person with autism. The purpose of The Cavendish School is to create a safe and nurturing environment so that students can be themselves and thrive, this in turn allows the focus within the home to be about family life. It is clear, from all of the parental views that I hear, that all families with children with autism want is to have a happy young person who is able to have the independent and successful life they deserve – this will be the main focus of my work.