About the judges

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Richard Daniel Curtis – The Root Of It and The Mentoring School

Richard is the Founder of The Root Of It.  Having spent years working with children with severe behavioural difficulties, as the local authority cuts hit Richard left his local authority post in order to set up a school improvement and special needs service for schools.  The Root Of It was founded in May 2013 in the South East and has expanded nationally to be able to provide professionals to schools.  Winners of the Best New Business Award at the 2014 Entrepreneurs Convention and the Gold Award at the Scoot Headlines Awards 2015 the team is recognised as the national go to team for school support, providing schools with an alternative to local authorities across the UK.  Taking an innovative approach to providing support for schools, The Mentoring School have developed a National Mentor Qualifications, including course for learning mentors in education and workplace mentors. 

Kim Johnson – Previous President, National Association of Head Teachers

Kim Johnson was NAHT president and principal of Bradfields Specialist SEN Academy in Chatham, Kent, which provides day provision for 300 students with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. He has over 40 years’ experience of working with SEND pupils in mainstream, pupil referral unit and special schools settings. He is dedicated to guaranteeing the very best educational and life opportunities for children and young people with personal challenges and disabilities.

Professor Sonia Blandford – Founder and CEO of Achievement for All

Sonia Blandford has been a music teacher since 1980.  Currently Founder and CEO of the award winning educational charity, Achievement for All which provides programmes to improve outcomes for underachieving children and young people aged 2 – 18 years in 4,000 early years, school and post 16 settings in England and Wales; and Professor of Education and Social Enterprise at UCL IOE.  Previously, Sonia was Director of Research and Leadership at Teach First, Professor of Educational Leadership and Innovation at the University of Warwick, where she now holds an Honorary Professorship, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University and Deputy Dean of the Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes University and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at University of Oxford.  Prior to her charity and higher education positions Sonia held leadership and teaching positions in five secondary schools Wiltshire, Bath, London and Bristol.

As an innovator in education Sonia led the creation and development of the Teach First initial teacher training programme and EdD programmes at Oxford Brookes University and Canterbury Christ Church University, each aiming to provide the highest quality professional development opportunities for teachers. Sonia was among the first cohort to be awarded an EdD in the UK at the University of Bristol (1995).  She was a member of inaugural NPQH development and delivery team in the South West and has been a Quality Assurance Assessor monitoring quality and standards in higher education.

In a voluntary capacity Sonia founded and supported five local and national charities that share her commitment to enabling every child to succeed regardless of background, challenge or need.  Her first charity, The Corsham Windband Association has engaged children and young people from diverse backgrounds in music making for over 30 years.

Sonia is author of over 150 articles and books written for teachers, leaders, parents and carers, and children and young people, most recently publishing with John Catt and Bloomsbury. Sonia is married with two daughters.

Lara Roberts – The National Network of Parent Carer Forums

Lara has been the South East rep for the National Network Parent Carer Forums since 2013. Nationally the NNPCF covers nine regions and has a membership of 63,000 parent carer’s throughout England. The Forums core role is to empower participation, with a pan disability and 0-25 years remit. In the South East there are 19 forums, whose views she has to scope to feed into the national picture of what is happening to families with children/young people who have additional needs and/or disabilities. Lara has two children, one of which has learning disabilities and limited communication, so she knows from direct experience the role of being a parent carer and what it feels like.

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