TCES Group Latest News & Events

08 Nov 2019

Goldsmiths’ research finds schools that never permanently exclude have transformed the lives of UK’s most complex and vulnerable students ‘educationally, emotionally and socially’

An independent research study published today (Friday 8th November) by Goldsmiths University of London has found that TCES Group – a family-owned group of Local Authority-funded special schools and services whose policy is never to permanently exclude – has transformed the life chances of its students who are among the top 5% of the most complex and vulnerable children and young people in the UK.

The research – which TCES Group is now using to pilot a ‘Reach-Out’ programme with maintained schools – included in-depth interviews and focus groups with students who had left a TCES Group school or service within the last five years. Ninety per cent of TCES Group’s graduates are in education, training or employment up to 5 years after leaving school.

Researchers stated that ‘an emphasis on attachment, along with a diversified and differentiated curriculum, with group process at its core, allowed these young people to feel understood, to feel welcomed and to learn the social and academic skills to engage with all aspects of life more positively,’. Researchers concluded that the TCES Group, through its inclusive philosophy of never giving up provides authentic, therapeutic education at its finest, which ‘is effective in transforming the lives of its pupils educationally, emotionally and socially’ within its inclusive schools.

Thomas Keaney, CEO and Schools’ Proprietor of TCES Group – recently named NASEN (National Association of Special Educational Needs) SEND Leader of the Year says:

‘Pupils with SEND account for 45% of permanent exclusions, and with off-rolling, managed moves and so on we know this figure is just the tip of the iceberg. The impact on families, schools and communities of permanent exclusions is devastating.

‘We’re of course delighted that Goldsmiths found the work we’re doing in TCES Group schools is transformational. But even more importantly we hope the findings of this research will have much wider implications. By talking to former TCES Group students themselves – voices that far too often get lost in the exclusion conversation – researchers got to the heart of what made the difference.

‘This was a combination of being listened to and understood by well-trained professionals, being encouraged to play an active role in their school community, support to develop their sense of identity around their strengths and their future. And under-pinning all of this was the knowledge that we would never, ever give up on them.’

In the words of TCES Group alumni ‘Ben’:

‘Yeah, they don’t give up….You could tell them a thousand times to basically go away, and they will still stand there.  It doesn’t matter what you say or do.  I don’t know how they put up with it..I mean, to be able to still stand there and be like, “No, I’m not giving up on you pupils.”  You’ve got to genuinely care … to take that sort of thing every single day of the week.. You’ve got to be passionate and you need to care to be able to do that 100%.’

Caroline Frizell and David Woodger Goldsmiths researchers say:

‘Exclusion is damaging for the whole community, reinforcing attitudes of intolerance and prejudice, as well as maintaining a system that is inflexible and unresponsive to difference. There is no evidence supporting the notion that exclusion serves as a deterrent and/or makes students fall into line. Instead, it further ostracises young people who are already struggling with finding a place of belonging. 

‘This research is strong evidence that when that threat of exclusion is removed you create the space for the trust, attachment and sense of identity that these young people need to open up and make significant progress educationally, emotionally and socially. The attitude of never giving up cascades into the student experience.’

TCES Patron Dame Esther Rantzen says:  

‘We are extremely grateful to the children and young people who took part in this research and about whom you will read in the report.   Their achievements are conclusive evidence that TCES Group’s approach works and works well, and I believe that its policy of never permanently excluding, along with other interventions could and should be used as a template for the educational sector as a whole.’

Thomas Keaney continues:

‘Working with disadvantaged children and young people has been my life’s work. But as we mark our 20th birthday my wish is that schools like ours will cease to be needed.

‘We know what works in place of exclusion and we’re currently working on a pilot programme to support mainstream schools with those alternatives. In the meantime, I hope all school leaders will take a look at this research and reflect on how far the key ingredients are embedded in their approach to working with children at risk of exclusion. If they conclude they could do more, I’d strongly urge them to do so for the sake of all our children and young people.’

Goldsmiths’ findings, as evidenced through TCES Group graduates’ own words, were presented across a number of key themes which, taken together, provide a powerful blueprint of school practice to avoid the need to permanently exclude.

  1. Embedding a ‘never give up’ philosophy from day one

‘TCES staff demonstrated an ability to manage, contain and respond to difficult and disruptive behaviour, rather than to retaliate and/or resort to permanent exclusion. This inclusive approach has a deep and lasting influence. Participants noted how it contributed to their stability and security.’

‘She taught me so much and I couldn’t thank her enough. She just taught me how to love myself…how to love education.’

‘He was friendly, he was nice and he’s that kind of person that would never give up on you or push you to do a lot.  And he was there sort of just pushing you gently to do a little bit more, a little bit more.’

  1. Promoting understanding of need for attachment and the impact of loss

‘Staff at TCES Group are able to meet students where they are and respond to what they need, with a long-term goal of building safety.’  

 ‘I mean they’re brilliant… I don’t know who I would be if I wasn’t at that school….they played a massive part…. they helped me find myself. I think it was them just genuinely understanding me and me letting them help me’

  1. Providing a person-centred curriculum with high expectations

Researchers noted that ‘Participants described a person-centred curriculum at TCES that sought to identify the unique gifts of each student and encouraged individualised learning. This approach made learning relevant and accessible to students who might have become resistant through a history of alienation and exclusion. TCES support students to build skills over time and to conceptualise idea about future careers.’

‘They just helped me one-to-one to do things and sit in class, which would help me with my maths and with other sort of stuff. Yeah. Even if the class was ahead, I would still be behind having help, which I didn’t mind because it was helping me out.’

‘My teacher would always tell me ‘You should do more’. And…the times where I struggle with a test or something and I’ll just leave a question he’d be like, ‘Try and see if you can get through it…Read the question properly and see if you can solve it. If you can’t, I’ll come and help you’. So, he motivated me to do more and that’s how I managed to get a lot of qualifications…he tried and help me solve things that I…have difficulty solving. So, I guess my teacher was kind of like my inspiration.’ 

  1. Fully developing students’ clear sense of identity, pride and purpose

All participants introduced themselves by identifying strongly with a religion or a profession.

Asked what they planned to do next in life students answered, ‘They have me encourage myself and once I know what I’m doing, you can just leave me for hours and I’ll be able to do it’, and ‘Well. I guess to become a vehicle technician and then eventually…an engineer. But apart from that…probably to travel the world.’

Researchers described these attitudes as ‘remarkable, given the low self-esteem and reckless behaviour that characterised their lives before TCES.’

  1. Driving regular opportunities for students to practise their empathy

‘Participants recognised the importance of empathy through reciprocal relationships and receiving an empathic attitude from staff, allowed them to offer empathy to others.  For example, in talking about supporting other students, one participant said: ‘I would try and Include them …to help them to join in….  For instance.. if we’re in a group and the other kid didn’t want to be, I will try and help them out by saying “It’s okay, you can come in.  Everyone’s welcome.” Try and include them so they’ll feel welcome and loved…everyone deserves to feel loved.’

  1. Developing community through belonging

Researchers noted that: ‘All participants mentioned the centrality of group process and its power and significance.’ And also that, ‘The creation of community and developing friendships across the school is significantly enabled through the group process.’

‘..I feel like I did have my voice heard… sometimes I felt like .. people weren’t listening to me. There were times .. I felt that no one was listening.  But now I feel like my voice is getting heard and I feel like things are changing in the school.

‘They always made sure that we could interact with other children there, 100%…the whole school was based around just being a massive group and working as a team…So, you would always be forced to basically speak to the other pupils…so that way you would always make friendships in whatever that way.’

22 Oct 2019

CEO celebrates SEND Leader win

We are delighted to announce that TCES Group CEO and Schools’ Proprietor Thomas Keaney was named ‘SEND Leader of the Year’ by nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) at a glittering ceremony last Friday. Hosted at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel in London, the ceremony recognises and celebrates those who help ensure children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can reach their full potential.

Thomas was nominated for the award for his twenty-some years of work in transforming the lives of over 3,000 of pupils with the most challenging and complex needs. He founded TCES Group in 1999 and the organisation is celebrating its 20th birthday this November, but Thomas has been working with vulnerable children and young people for much longer, starting his career in social work.

Thomas (top, fifth from left), stands among fellow award winners

TCES Group started as a social care company, before transitioning into one of the larger providers of independent education for pupils with co-morbid social and emotional mental health (SEMH) needs or an autism spectrum condition (ASC). He is proud to have never permanently excluded one of them.

Thomas said: “I think I’m the luckiest person in the world and privileged to be working with these incredible, talented young leaders who, despite challenges that would knock the rest of us down, display resilience and humour and their amazing personalities on a daily basis.

“My staff should be rewarded for sticking with and never giving up on our pupils despite often extreme provocation. They make our schools the amazing places they are and indeed working with these teams is surely my greatest achievement.”

Chief Executive of nasen, Prof. Adam Boddison said: “It’s an honour that we as a charity are able to bring together a host of people from across the SEND community in order to celebrate and reward some of the most inspirational work that has taken place over the last 12 months.

“This is the third year running for our awards ceremony, which gives us the opportunity to say thank you to those people who make a real difference to the lives of children and young people with SEND and who dedicate their time to helping them fulfil their potential.”

03 Oct 2019

National Poetry Day

Here are a couple of @Nationalpoetryday entries from our staff.  Awaiting more from pupils.

The first is from a new member of staff:

I write this on my second day,
I only joined here yesterday,
I know I will enjoy my stay,
Cos this is my dream job, hooray.
Schools that never have excluded!
What a message that’s exuded,
So the thought that I concluded –
Let me join! I’m now included!
20 years, a new staff member,
Can some of you still remember,
1999 November?
With just one child, one staff member?
Welcome is how I’ve been made,
Not seen the schools yet I’m afraid,
London and Essex not yet strayed
My starting date not too delayed.
When told I’d got the job, said “Yes”
I whooped and cheered I must confess,
But there’s one thing we all should guess,
What’s it stand for TCES?

The second covers our group specialism of Leadership:


All the greats led
By example in what they did and said
All the greats led
Because they believed in speaking out
All the greats led
Taking different approaches, different routes

All the greats led
And though some are now dead
A rich heritage and legacy lives on
It was Eisenhower who said
You don’t lead by hitting people over the head
And they didn’t
Maya, Malcolm and Mohammed
They motivated, they challenged and inspired instead
They were like so many other greats who led
Simply by speaking, standing and sitting.

As a continuation of their legacy
Some leaders are still leading by example
With excellence and integrity
Dreaming, speaking even kneeling
Leaders like Kaepernick, outspoken like Lupita and Akala.

20/10/17( revised 1/10/19) ©️Roxy Brown

04 Sep 2019

Supporting ASC/SEMH Pupils Returning in September: My ‘Top Ten’ List

Thomas Keaney
CEO and Schools’ Proprietor, TCES Group

1) Discuss their strengths and needs

If you have a new class of pupils, discuss their strengths and needs with their previous Teachers and Teaching Assistants and read the pupils’ files – but remember that a file never represents the amazing talented children and young people that you’ll be working with.

2) Visit them at home

Where possible, do a home visit to meet the pupil and their parents/carers to introduce yourself, discuss their child’s strengths, and set out your expectations and targets for them around learning and behaviour.

Use the visit to signal to parents/carers that you want a positive partnership with them, and establish an agreed plan for communication. Remember to keep in contact with them regularly – and keep the news mostly about the positives.

3) Meet and greet each pupil

Meet and greet each pupil as they arrive and show them how much they were missed. For pupils with the most complex circumstances, explore how they managed through the holidays.

4) Nurture them back into the school environment

Remember your pupils may have been out of routine throughout the holidays. Some will not have had structure, boundaries or occasionally enough food, and some pupils may have been moved and will need an appropriate blend of care, support and control to get back into the school routine. Provide lots of nurture.

5) Hold a ‘Welcome back’ assembly

Hold a whole school assembly where staff and pupils are welcomed back, and remind the entire community of your school values, ethos or mission, and the high expectations you have for them in the upcoming year.

6) Create a welcoming environment

Work together with your pupils to put some significant effort into making your classroom a welcome learning environment. Work together to create inspirational and motivational wall displays. Give your class a real ‘Wow’ wow factor!

7) Hold a Tutor Group

Prepare and deliver a Tutor Group to your pupils in which you remind them of the support you will provide them and the work you will do to support them in making it a very successful year.

8) Anticipate your pupils’ needs

Behaviour is a method of communication, and poor behaviour is very often a communication of unmet needs. Anticipate those needs in advance and try to find out the underlying reasons for any concerning behaviour. Watch out for those pupils who communicate unmet needs by their silence or by withdrawing.

9) Stay calm and support each other

Remember that the only tool we have when working with children/young people who challenge us is ourselves. Always take a breath before getting involved in a situation that is escalating, stay calm and support each other and always look to deescalate.

10) Seek advice from your clinical team

Seek advice from your schools’ clinical staff if a pupil is demonstrating difficulty with settling back into the school environment – but remember, it is your relationship with your pupils that will enable them to settle most quickly.

03 Sep 2019

Thomas Keaney Shortlisted for the UK’s Largest Diversity Awards

We are delighted to announce that Thomas Keaney, TCES Group’s CEO and Schools’ Proprietor has been shortlisted for the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Diversity Awards 2019.

Over 28,000 people nominated this year, resulting in an astonishing 124 nominees being recognised for their various achievements nationwide.  Community organisations and role models from across the UK will head to the breathtaking Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on 20 September to witness the country’s 2019 winners being crowned the best of British diversity.

Also amongst those being honoured are a reformed gangster, a Junior Bake Off Star and a host of campaigners and activists, all of whom work tirelessly to combat injustice and discrimination in very different ways.

Thomas (middle-right) with pupils and staff during a visit from His Excellency Justice Anthony Carmona, 5th President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (middle-left)

Thomas has been responsible for transforming the lives of more than 3,000 young people throughout his career. After 13 years in social work, specialising in children’s mental health services, he founded TCES Group in 1999, starting as a social care company with one client, before transitioning into education for SEN pupils. Over 20 years he has developed the Group into one of the larger providers of independent school education for pupils with co-morbid SEMH needs or ASC in London and Essex, working with some of the most challenging pupils with complex needs. Thomas works tirelessly to ensure that pupils’ diversity is reflected in the diversity of school staff and management. This ensures that pupils are surrounded by successful role models from their own communities, cultures and background.

Thomas said: “I’m very honoured and humbled to have been shortlisted for this award. Although it’s in my name, the award is really for the whole TCES Group and my truly inspirational staff team who have, over the past 20 years, helped to transform the lives of more than 3,000 children and young people through REAL inclusion. We are all proud that in this time we’ve not excluded a single pupil and that we are now able to successfully integrate our Autistic and SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs) pupils together in the classroom.  Congratulations to all who have been shortlisted for these awards – I feel as though I’m in very distinguished company.”

Patron of TCES Group, Dame Esther Rantzen DBE said: “I was delighted to hear that Thomas has been shortlisted for the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Diversity Awards.  I’m not surprised as, when visiting his schools, the inclusive approach and difference it makes to his pupils is impressive.”

HSBC, Direct Line Group & MI5 have recently been announced as sponsors of the pioneering awards that have paid tribute to over 700 grass root charities and diversity champions since its inception. Joining the likes of Auto Trader UK & Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, ITV News are also listed amongst a host of companies showcasing their support to recognising diverse talent.

A spokesperson for MI5 said: “It is MI5’s mission to keep the country safe, and it’s vital that we represent the diverse society we seek to protect. We are at our strongest when we have the richest mix of the best talent, working together in an environment that allows people to thrive. Put simply, our diverse workforce is crucial to our operational successes. We are pleased to be able to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to inclusion through our continued support for these awards. They are an important way of recognising and celebrating the good work being done across the country to promote inclusivity, diversity and provide opportunity for all.”

Designed to highlight the country’s most inspirational and selfless people, the NDA’s continue to gain endorsements from high profile figures such as Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry CBE and Graham Norton.

Actress and comedian Sally Phillips will take centre stage on 20th September as the official host of this year’s ceremony. Reflecting on the forthcoming celebrations, Sally said: “I am delighted to be hosting the 2019 National Diversity Awards. Acknowledging and celebrating the hard work and stand out achievements of role models and community groups throughout the UK is a genuine honour for me. Having attended the Awards back in 2016, I experienced this fabulous ceremony first hand and I cannot wait to be back this year celebrating the dedication and commitment of some of the UK’s most luminous and exceptional people.”

Previous winners include actor Warwick Davis, football’s equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out and freedom fighter Abbey Kiwanuka.

Paul Sesay, Founder and CEO of the National Diversity Awards added “A record amount of nominations and votes were received this year, the most we have ever received. I know our judging panel had an incredibly difficult task of whittling down the nominees to create an outstanding shortlist.

“So many heartfelt testimonies really showcased how these people and organisations are having a profound impact on the lives of others, and I applaud them for their dedication to each specific cause. Congratulations to all of our shortlisted nominees, it is a privilege to recognise your bravery, resilience and courage and I am honoured to share this with the nation. I look forward to congratulating you in person in September”.

To view a full list of nominees please visit

22 May 2019

Sportsmanship to be proud of

The TCES Group inter-schools football tournament made a welcome return this year, with some notable differences in honour of the company’s 20th anniversary.

Hosted this time by the West Ham United Foundation, teams were outfitted with specially commissioned kits, in colours selected by the schools themselves, adorned with the special anniversary logo.

Hard work
A lot of hard work and planning went into the event, led by ELIS PE Teacher Eddie Szostak, with an excellent pay-off, as pupils showed many examples of outstanding sporting behaviour, while giving it their all in six-a-side matches against each other.

Eddie said: “Thanks to the commitment and attitude of the students, hard work of TCES Group staff and the organisation of the day by West Ham United Foundation staff, the football tournament was a great success. Students showed competitiveness and sportsmanship in equal measure, and the games were played in great spirit.”

NWLIS Alumni Mentor Hussein returned for the event to show his support. He said: “I’m really glad I could be here today. Our teams have been training very hard, and I’ve enjoyed being here to support them, plus seeing a lot of old faces from my school and others.”

Authentic real inclusion
Throughout the event, pupils were spotted working excellently in their teams, motivating each other, and shaking hands with their opponents – even picking them up off the floor after a connecting tackle.

We never give up
Des Walter, Teaching Assistant at EFS Clacton said: “Our team played incredibly well. Although they lost all their matches, they continued to play in the spirit the tournament was intended, despite the temptation to throw in the towel. They showed incredible sportsmanship, and were true champions in my eyes.”

Motivational talk
While off the pitch, students were invited to join Korede, an apprentice coach, who shared accounts of his own negative experiences as a young teenager, and how his life was turned around by his role at the foundation.

He told pupils about his gang related experiences, how at 13 years of age he started selling class A drugs, and his first arrest for carrying a knife. Unable to secure a college placement or job, he was taken on by the foundation, and his life has been improving ever since. He advised our pupils that the most important lesson he’d learned was that he needed to change his friends and the community he surrounded himself in.

Mutual respect and tolerance
Fitness Coach Ben Green said: “All the pupils have got on really well, and there’s been a great sense of community. The sportsmanship has been excellent too, with players from opposing teams helping each other up after tackles, and very few arguments.”

Despite some nasty weather creeping over from above, there was a warm and sunny window in which organisers, along with CEO and Schools’ Proprietor Thomas Keaney, led an awards ceremony.

Very high expectations
Mr Keaney said: “Our staff work extraordinarily hard to support our pupils to settle into life in school and to begin to see themselves as the successful young leaders that they can be – today, that work came to fruition.

“I witnessed teams of pupils representing their schools with real pride and commitment. Just as importantly, they showed brilliant sportsmanship throughout.”

The results
The “Players of the Tournament” trophy went to Joe (NWLIS) – upper school, and Jamie (EFS Witham) – lower school. Odene (ELIS) was given the trophy for the “Sportsmanship award”, and both upper and lower schools from NWLIS won the “Champion team” trophies.

What our pupils had to say:
“I’m the only KS2 girl in the tournament, but my teammates have made me feel confident around them, and I love playing in my school team!” – Kenza

“I enjoy the rush of being in goal, and being the Vice Captain of my team. We practised almost every week!” – Kaden

“We shared the ball well and no-one was greedy with it. I’ve really enjoyed working with everybody on my team. I’d like to come again!” – Odene

“Our team was really good at passing and communicating with each other. Even better than that, I scored ten goals!” – Joe

“Over the past two weeks we’ve been training hard. I got new trainers for the tournament, and I’m hoping to get a few good tackles in!” – Matty

Download our newsletter of the event here, and view photos from the event in the gallery below:


15 May 2019

Read the latest newsletter from The Catherine Bullen Foundation

The Catherine Bullen Foundation, an international relief charity working in rural Namibia which is supported by pupils and staff at TCES Group, have released their latest newsletter.

Our students often volunteer their time to raise money for the charity – baking their own cakes to sell, crafting hand-made greetings cards to sell at events, or simply wearing the charity’s yellow and brown colour scheme to school, and donating £1.

In their latest update, Linda and Roger Bullen share news on the  new multi-purpose hall at the Omuhaturua Primary School and Hostel, works to improve the healthcare clinic, upcoming events and more. Click here to download it.

12 Apr 2019

CEO nominated for National Diversity Award

TCES Group’s School Proprietor and CEO Thomas Keaney has been nominated for the ‘Lifetime Achiever’ National Diversity Award.

This year, Thomas and all staff across TCES Group are celebrating the organisation’s birthday, having been established 20 years ago in 1999.

Thomas has been transforming the lives of young people throughout his career for longer than this, however, having had 13 years’ experience in social work before creating TCES Group.

Thomas (middle-right) with pupils and staff during a visit from His Excellency Justice Anthony Carmona, 5th President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (middle-left)


Since 1999, he has led the growth of TCES Group into one of the larger providers of independent school education for pupils with co-morbid SEMH needs or ASC in London and Essex, working with over 3,000 of the most challenging pupils with complex needs. He is proud that he has never permanently excluded one of them.

Thomas has worked to ensure that diversity is reflected throughout school staff and management, and that pupils are surrounded by role models from their own communities and backgrounds.

Embedded across the group, his vision, philosophy and community values promote a culture of ‘school life without labels’. Unusually, SEMH and ASC pupils are taught together and supported to understand their different needs and diagnoses, showing respect and tolerance for one another.

Thomas said: “I’m the luckiest person in the world and privileged to be working with these incredible, talented young leaders who, despite challenges that would knock the rest of us down, display resilience and humour and their amazing personalities on a daily basis.

“My staff team should be rewarded for sticking with and never giving up on our pupils despite often extreme provocation. They make our schools the amazing places that they are and working with these teams is surely my greatest achievement.”

TCES Group are asking for help in getting him the win, as it would be a fantastic way to reflect on the progress the organisation has made in the last 20 years, under Thomas’ leadership.

Visit the nomination page to read more about Thomas and his background, and vote.