An Interview with Tina Emery – The Parent Carer Network

An Interview with Tina Emery – The Parent Carer Network

What is your role?

I am a parent carer of two young people with SEND (aged 24 and 21). One no longer lives at home, while the other is still at college with an EHCP. Additionally, I represent Parent Carer forums in the South West and serve as Co-Chair of National Parent Carer forums.

Tell me about the importance of the Parent Carer Network?

The Parent Carer Network is incredibly important. Before my youngest was diagnosed, I believed they were autistic. The difference in people’s attitudes when you have conversations or question your parenting can be isolating. There is nothing worse than not knowing how to manage your child on bad days and feeling distressed without support. It’s incredibly important to sit with someone who understands exactly what it’s like to have those experiences.

How do you feel communication/support/advice to Parent Carers has changed during your time in post?

There has been more emphasis on self-help, with parent carers wanting to be independent and in charge of their destiny. Every journey is different, with informed choice being key. There is still some way to go in terms of systems for support, advice, and guidance, but it’s improving. Conversations are now happening earlier, even at the pre-diagnostic stage, which is a positive step. Many people may not want a label, but it could make life easier. It’s about a sense of belonging, with neurological conditions becoming more openly discussed. It’s important to seek and access support and understand what’s available, even if choosing not to have those conversations.

What are your views on the proposed changes to better support SEND students and their families?

The SEND review and change programme are works in progress and a step in the right direction. It’s important to test these changes rather than imposing them. However, it will take time to see their full impact.

What are the difficulties of supporting Parent Carers in the South West, and what has been done to overcome these challenges?

Supporting Parent Carers in the South West presents challenges, particularly in rural areas like Cumbria, which is where I am originally from, the problems apply in rural areas in the south west,  where understanding may be lacking. Issues such as staff retention, cost of living, and the distance between home and schools are complex. Building more schools isn’t always feasible, and not always the right answer.

At Spaghetti Bridge, we aim to make the pedagogy practical, real-life and experiential. We use industry experts and children create projects to use their skills and see them come to life. How do you think we could influence mainstreams in adopting this approach to support the many, rather than the few?

Really interesting subject. Education use standardised tests, thankfully children are not standardised. Industry leaders talking to students and inspiring young people to be the next industry leaders is paramount. It’s important that children and young people with SEND get the same opportunities and look at the entrepreneurs in the world. It’s essential to think outside of the box. 

Definitely worth sharing, if they end up in work and in the industry, proof that its worth doing. It’s the Government that you need to show.

You’ll be aware of the significant financial challenges facing LAs across the South West and the many programs of support offered by the DfE. How do you think that is impacting parents and carers in the South West?

Tina is involved in DBV and not the Safety Valve and have not received any intel into it as PCF. The DBV looks at support in the right place at the right time and early help. Early support can prevent families from reaching crisis mode, ensuring their needs are met. However, insufficient funding and crisis management focus can make it difficult for families to recover. It’s crucial that provision matches the child’s needs and that they are adequately supported.

Who is your biggest SEND inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is the parents of children and young people I encounter in both my work and personal journey. Many families inspire me with their resilience and determination to tackle each day. Children and young people with SEND are incredibly resilient, as are the many individuals I work with who are truly remarkable.

Why is communication with families so important?

Communication with families and carers is essential. Half the battle is ensuring they are informed and able to make informed choices. We must be mindful and provide support and information to these families. Good communication and listening skills, also help families tell their stories once, nothing gets a parent carer or child and young person more frustrated or question trust, than telling their story what feels like a billion times.

To understand parents and avoid being judgmental, trauma-informed training is essential for our parent/carers and for those who support them.

1500 735 Spaghetti Bridge

Accredited Learning

In addition to GCSEs and Functional Skills exams, Spaghetti Bridge students are offered a number of accredited occupational qualifications. These include NCFE Enterprise Skills, Business and Enterprise, and Occupational Studies for the Workplace qualifications and AQA Project Qualifications

Preparation for and Pathways to Adulthood

The unique nature of Enterprise Learning, with its focus on real-world learning, community activities, Industry Experts, Driving Questions, the experience of work-environments, and a project-oriented curriculum, means that students are prepared for life beyond school throughout their time at a Spaghetti Bridge school. All students are also provided with Independent Advice and Guidance throughout their Spaghetti Bridge journey.

However, as they approach the time of their transition to a post school destination, it is important that our students’ curriculum begins to focus more on deciding and preparation for a specific post-school destination through our “Pathways to Adulthood” programme. While each student’s wider curriculum continues, the Pathways to Adulthood programme focuses on students’ development of specific skills and knowledge in the areas of Continuing Education and Employment and Independent Living. At this stage, each student also has a transition plan that details the steps needed to successfully transition to their life after leaving school.


The Spaghetti Bridge Three Phase curriculum and our Relational Approach ensures that PSHE, SMSC, RSE, and FBV are integrated throughout each student’s curriculum in an individualised and student-centred manner. In addition, we have developed a yearly PSHE and RSE curriculum, consisting of termly and weekly themes, a bespoke target cache, and group and individual sessions.

In order to ensure that our students develop their cultural capital, each school has a cultural calendar which links PSHE and SMSC themes to events and activities in their community.


Mathematics is about so much more than simply getting the answer right. Instead, we believe that mathematics can facilitate a new perspective on the world and foster creative and analytical thinking, a growth mindset, and confidence in one’s ability to learn. Therefore, our mathematics curriculum contains three areas: mathematical content, mathematical thinking, and mathematical mindset.

Mathematical content consists of the twelve areas of learning that form the conceptual structure of a mathematics curriculum.

Mathematical mindset is about how students relate to mathematics, are resilient in the face of mathematical challenges, view themselves as capable of mathematics, and see mathematics in a positive light.

Mathematical thinking is the way in which students use logic, reason, and divergent thinking to solve mathematical problems and how they apply their mathematical learning across the wider curriculum.

Spaghetti Bridge schools deliver mathematics both as part of Enterprise Projects and through discrete mathematics sessions. We believe in teaching mathematics across the curriculum as a key part of all subjects.

Spaghetti Bridge schools do not follow the National Curriculum in literacy, but instead have adapted this curriculum into our Mathematics Pillar, which allows us to assess, plan, scaffold and sequence each student’s individualised curriculum.

All students have the opportunity to pursue accredited mathematics outcomes, including GCSE and Functional Skills exams.

Spaghetti Bridge has developed our approach to mathematics through collaboration with the Jurassic Maths Hub.


At Spaghetti Bridge, we want our students to have a love of reading, the ability to understand and manage information, and communicate effectively. Our literacy curriculum contains content in five distinct areas: comprehension, word recognition, speaking and listening, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and writing. These content areas are supported by a vibrant reading culture and the fostering of a learning mindset.  Literacy is delivered throughout the curriculum, is embedded in Enterprise Projects and is integrated into all subject areas.

Each student has an individualised Reading Plan linked to their relationship to reading.

Our literacy programme is supported by a comprehensive phonics programme based on the Ruth Miskin Trust Fresh Start programme. For students on a phonics programme, their phonics is delivered through a bespoke curriculum, which may consist of 1:1 sessions or be integrated into their wider learning.

Each school has a termly reading curriculum that is linked to the wider curriculum map with links to the PSHE curriculum and the Driving Question for the term.

The Spaghetti Bridge literacy curriculum provides opportunities for accredited learning, including GCSE and Functional Skills exams.

Spaghetti Bridge schools do not follow the National Curriculum in literacy, but instead have adapted this curriculum into our Literacy Pillar, which allows us to assess, plan, scaffold and sequence each student’s individualised curriculum.

Spaghetti Bridge has developed our literacy curriculum in collaboration with the Cornerstones English Hub and the Right to Read Programme.

EHCP Outcomes

Every student at Spaghetti Bridge Schools has an Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) and this forms an integral part of their curriculum. Our schools take a student’s EHCP outcomes and break these down into achievable termly targets as part of each student’s Individual Learning Plan. These targets are then integrated into the student’s projects and wider curriculum and assessed on a termly basis.

A Knowledge Rich Curriculum

Children and young people today have inherited a world in which they have access to more knowledge than ever before; however, the knowledge curriculum is often delivered without context or sense of purpose. We have instead designed our knowledge-rich curriculum using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy to support students to not just gain but apply and create knowledge. Our curriculum map covers the subjects of science, human and social, creative and aesthetic, physical, and technology and design education, with termly topics in each area. The curriculum spirals every three years, ensuring that students revisit and build on prior learning through a sequence of three progressive tiers of knowledge for each topic.

This curriculum structure allows us to build individualised pathways for each student that support ambitious progress across the curriculum in line with their individual strengths and needs.

Skills and Understandings

In addition to our knowledge curriculum, our pillars also focus on skills and understandings. Skills are specific abilities that are linked to a particular subject and understandings concern the role that a specific subject plays in our world. Our skills and understandings are sequenced vertically and horizontally as part of our curriculum map and built into Enterprise Projects.

Enterprise Projects

As much as possible, our curriculum is delivered in the form of Enterprise Projects. In these projects, each student creates a piece of Beautiful Work of which they are proud. The projects are oriented around a shared Driving Question, which makes them meaningful, and are completed through Project Steps, such as brainstorming, creating models, doing field work, and presenting to the community. Projects are supported through collaboration with Industry Experts, who are professionals within a particular field and support our students to complete their Beautiful Work according to industry standards.

It is helpful to look at Enterprise Projects as the vehicle through which learning is delivered. For example, in designing and building a garden, students can learn any number of topics, such as botany, engineering, mathematics, etc. Reading is woven into projects through such steps as researching. Projects also enable students to work toward their EHCP outcomes by enabling any number of areas of learning, such as teamwork and cooperation, emotional resilience, executive functioning, and creative thinking.

Enterprise Projects give students a sense of purpose in their learning and build strong connections with their community, both within and outside the school.

The Three Phase Process

Our curriculum is structured by the Three Phase Process, which allows us to adapt each student’s programme to their current level of need and sequence all future learning.

Overcoming Barriers – students develop their sense of trust, belonging, self-image as a student, and sense of their own potential.  

21st Century Skills – each student’s curriculum broadens to focus more on the skills, knowledge and understandings that will enable them to thrive in the 21st century. 

Becoming Community Ready – the student’s curriculum prioritises more the steps that need to be taken in order to successfully transition to their life beyond school.

The Three Phases Process ensures that each student’s curriculum is individualised and ambitious and that they are supported and challenged at the appropriate level on the way to becoming themselves and changing the world.