Read TCES Group CEO & Schools’ Proprietor Thomas Keaney’s blog posts below. Thomas discusses wide-ranging issues relating to social care, special educational needs, education and TCES Group school achievements. His views are his own. You can follow Thomas (@TCESGroupCEO) on Twitter here.

TCES Group’s ‘Group work’ philosophy

25 November 2019
There is in my view in every child irrespective of previous experiences a wish to integrate into society and to be successful.

This wish may well be blocked by the multiple barriers of early life trauma and poor primary experience, often resulting in ongoing attachment difficulties and poor self-esteem.

Our children may well be locked into a never-ending cycle of unsuccessful attempts to communicate their inner needs, wishes and desires, whilst not yet having the tools to overcome speech, language and communication difficulties.

They will experience the adult world as suspicious, unfriendly, uncaring and will have this experience confirmed throughout their young lives by multiple exclusions and losses of the (all too often) very small numbers of caring and understanding teachers, carers, social workers and other adults. Their suspicion and distrust of all adults will turn into a very healthy and understandable attachment disorder where they reject adults who will inevitably let them down in their experience.

Communications will often be unconscious expressions of their inner world and will reflect their experiences of rejection, loss, inconsistent and unreliable caring and will appear as misunderstood and misdirected anger – usually outwards, but often inwards – through depression or self-harming, controlling behaviour or passive acceptance of their lack of control.

The primary task is to provide these pupils with adults who understand their experiences and who are emotionally intelligent enough to recognise their own responses to the pupils’ inner states, whether these responses are conscious or unconscious. We need these adults to be self-reflective practitioners in order to ensure that they are not drawn into the children’s inner worlds inappropriately, and instead can maintain healthy and appropriate relationships with our pupils. These adults will need to accept that the work requires them to make an emotional investment to meet their unmet needs through the formulation of reliable, consistent and understanding relationships.

Read the full blog here.

The realities of bullying

12 April 2019
One of the biggest fallacies in our education system which is perpetuated time and again is the myth that bullying doesn’t happen or only rarely in a good or outstanding school. Any Head teacher who tells us as parents that bullying does not happen in their school is either removed from the context of their school or terrified of being identified as a bullying school. Either way they are misleading parents and clearly not in a good position to address the reality of their school.

Read the full article here.

Lives less ordinary

Imagine the scene. Staff and pupils are sitting in a small circle in an Independent Day school for pupils with special educational needs. We are beginning to form what for us will be the most important intervention in our school; our twice weekly group process. We have 10 pupils and 5 staff in the classroom. Our Group Process facilitator is one of the most positive, motivational human beings I’ve ever met, and this man may be diminutive in stature, but he packs a powerful emotional punch.

Read the full article here.

The one that got away

Last week I celebrated the birthday of TCES Group as it entered into its 20th year as a Social Enterprise. TCES Group delivers education, health and care through its schools and high needs services for pupils with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs and co-morbid Autistic Spectrum Condition.

In this our 20th year I have been asked to write some articles about my experiences of the changing times and changing practices within the work we do but strangely (for anyone who knows me) I find myself being drawn to writing about both my and our collective experiences of the amazing, talented, maddening children and young people that have impacted us so much over the last two decades.

Read the full article here.

Isolation booths in schools; A poverty of values and imagination

26 April 2019
Mother sues over daughter’s suicide attempt in school isolation booth  (Guardian, April 2019)

Isolation booths in schools are being reported on as part of a recent wider examination of the education system by the media.

This article is about the practice of removing pupils from their classrooms and placing them in booths for extended periods of time. These booths are called ‘isolation booths’ and they are usually small three-sided wooden structures in which the pupil sits facing the back wall of the booth.

These ‘isolation booths’ are the subject of much controversy these days, but their origins lie in much less controversial lineage. Originally they were established centuries ago as carrels in monasteries where the occupant needed some peace from the unfortunate habit of an abomination of monks reading aloud. More recently (this century) university libraries have extensively utilised study booths or carrels which tend to fill up with frantic students around exam time.

Download and read the full blog here. 

Healing the wounds of Exclusion

On 29th January the TES published an article of mine entitled ‘Exclusions build a school-to-prison pipeline’.

I received a variety of responses to the article mostly agreeing but some asked me to explain what they should do about inclusion in a classroom with 30 pupils. As I strongly believe that all teachers start from a premise of wanting to be inclusive in their attitudes and values I recognise that there are many barriers to inclusion and I would like to explore these in this short article and to attempt to offer some solutions.

Firstly it is important to highlight some of the existing divisions between teachers on the issue of inclusion and exclusions. The education profession has continuously engaged in a very long term and wide ranging debate on inclusion prior to the usual battening down of the hatches. The two camps begin with their polarised positions, which when broken down usually debates the needs of the few versus the needs of the many and I know I’m simplifying.

Read the full article here.

Sewing up the wounds of exclusion; the trouble with Jane

2 November 2018

Today we received the news that one of our Care Experienced Children Jane (not her real name) is being moved out of our Independent Special Day school by the placing Local Authority Special Needs Department.

This young lady has been with us for the past three years during which time she has moved Foster Carers twelve times. Each time that she moves Foster Carer it is because they cannot cope with her behaviour. Each time she pushes them away successfully she succeeds in reaffirming for herself that adults are not to be trusted and that any implicit or indeed occasional explicit promises of care and love that her Carers have given her are false promises.

Read the full article here.

A Rare Talent

I didn’t understand enough about your life
Your family circumstances or your strife
You hid your pain behind deceitful wiles
Playing the joker with the widest smiles

You never really talked about the home front
Discussions on family were seen as an affront
We tried to involve your mother when you did well
But apathy and anger was where she did dwell

After school you went home without delay
Siblings to support, ironically not child’s play
You were clearly the family standard bearer
Sad for one so young to be a full time Carer

Read the full poem here


10 October 2018

Every child born with a scream,
Dragged from a beautiful dream,
Their comforting world forsaken,
The maternal bond now shaken,
Brought into cold and harsh light,
All equal with this human plight

Read the full poem here    

Social exclusion repeated through school exclusion

11 September 2018

At TCES Group we are entering into our 20th year of educating children and young people with special educational needs; SEMH and ASC pupils with co-morbid conditions. These pupils come to us after a lifetime of multiple marginalisation and social exclusion… read the full article here

My top-ten tips for supporting our pupils’ return in September to TCES Group Schools’/Create Service:

31 August 2018

1. Re-read the pupil’s file and remind yourself of their strengths and needs…read the full article 31 August here

School exclusion discriminates against children with disabilities 

15 August 2018

As the CEO of TCES Group which is a social enterprise and one of the largest independent Special
School providers to children and young people with SEND in London, I am delighted with the ruling. Read the full article 15 August here