Simon Drinkwater recently joined Cardiff-based Orbis Education and Care as its new HR Director. Here, he talks to Education For Everybody about Orbis specialist schools and residential services for people with autism…
Tell us about Orbis and the service it provides.
Orbis Education and Care provides specialist day schools, as well as residential services for children and adults who have a formal diagnosis of autism. Orbis currently encompasses four residential schools for children and young people and nine adult homes.
How do you feel about joining Orbis and what are your plans in terms of HR?
Orbis has a wonderfully informal yet progressive culture, always looking to improve, and has very clear strategic goals with the service user and the employee at the heart of everything. My role in particular is to focus on how we make Orbis an even better place to build a career in care and education, harnessing where possible digital and modern HR practices, without losing that culture that already exists.
Why do people want to work for Orbis?
I think first and foremost the people that apply to join us have a desire to help others. I think when they then interact with us for the first time they realise that organisationally we are on the same page. They recognise that we are passionate about creating great homes and an exceptional educational and learning experience every day.
Do you have any events planned in 2018?
We will be exhibiting at both The Autism Show in Birmingham on the 22nd - 23rd June, and the NCCTC (National Commissioning and Contracting Training Conference for children’s services) on the 28th - 29th June.
Have you got any advice for people working with autistic people, eg professional development, books to read?
We’ve actually just discussed employing people with autism in a recent article (see orbis-group.co.uk) which might be of help to anybody who is considering a career in this field.
What can policy makers do to help further support people adults with autism?
Explore alternative and innovative day provisions. Many of our parents complain that unless they want a residential setting, there are limited day services for young adults with complex autism to access and feel forced to choose a residential placement for their child.
What can policy makers do to help further support SEND teachers, and children with autism?
Create more opportunities for professional learning amongst teachers of SEN schools so they can share good practice and lessons learnt. Currently there are limited opportunities for teachers in the independent sector to engage with colleagues from the maintained sector, even though they often have a lot of experience and valuable advice to give.
For children with autism – early intervention. Far too often we have children who are reaching their teenage years with negatives experiences of the education system and subsequently missing valuable learning opportunities. If policy makers invested in early intervention there would be a better chance of children being able to access maintained schools in the future as the support systems and foundations for learning would already be in place.