Jean Gross

Jean was until recently the government’s Communication Champion for children, responsible for working across government, delivery partners and other stakeholders to co-ordinate and build on initiatives to improve services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.


Jean has worked in the public sector, the third sector and in universities. She began her career as a teacher and educational psychologist, working daily with children, parents, teachers and other professionals to find solutions to problems affecting wellbeing and learning. She has been head of children’s services in a large urban local authority, responsible for special educational needs and behaviour and attendance policy and practice. Here she worked closely with health services on joint commissioning for autism, speech and language and child mental health needs. Until 2005 she was Senior Director within the government’s Primary National Strategy, responsible for its work on overcoming barriers to achievement, including the influential SEAL approach to developing children’s social and emotional competences.


Jean has been a Visiting Fellow at both Bristol University and London University’s Institute of Education. She has frequently acted in an advisory capacity to government, for example writing its guidance on the application of school behaviour policies to vulnerable young people, and writing new national special needs materials for trainee teachers. She sat on the expert advisory group for the Tickell Early Years Foundation Stage Review.


As Director of the Every Child a Chance Trust, she successfully championed the cause of children with significant literacy and numeracy difficulties,bringing together the interest of the business, charitable and public sectors in tackling social exclusion through high-impact early intervention programmes. The resulting Every Child a Reader and Every Child Counts programmes reached 30,000 children a year.


Jean is a national expert on special educational needs, and the author of numerous articles and best-selling books.Her contribution has been to transform the way we think about how to improve the attainment and wellbeing of learners with SEN, through practical demonstration of what can be done if we use brief, evidence-based interventions, manage interventions well, and at the same time seek to improve teachers’ skills in everyday inclusive classroom teaching.


 Improving the leadership and management of SEN in mainstream schools has been another significant contribution. Her book Special Educational Needs and school improvement(David Fulton, 2004) showed school leaders and SENCOs how to apply the tools for school improvement that have been too little used in relation to SEN- how to compare themselves with others, interrogate data, set targets for improvement at a whole-school level, audit pupil needs systematically and plan additional provision strategically through provision maps rather than in an ad-hoc way.


Her publications and professional development materials have reminded us that improving outcomes for pupils with SEN is fundamentally a teaching and learning issue , and that we need to shift our focus away from bureaucratic SEN ‘procedures’ towards what is actually happening in the classroom. Her book Beating Bureaucracy in SEN(NASEN/Routledge, 2008) has been seminal in helping schools make this shift.


As well as writing Special Educational Needs in the Primary School: a practical guide (Open University Press, 2002) now in its third edition and a standard text for practising teachers and those in training, she developed an important range of professional development materials for the National Strategies (on literacy and mathematics teaching in special settings, on dyslexia and communication difficulties, and on what constitutes inclusive mainstream teaching). She was adviser to the TTA on the 2001 QTS Standards in relation to SEN and behaviour management, and latterly worked with SENJIT on the TDA’s new ITT and induction SEN training materials.


Jean’s interests are in the systematic application of evidence-based approaches to tackling disadvantage and under-achievement through education. She edited the Centre for Social Justice/Smith Institute publication ‘Getting in Early’, summarising the evidence on what works for disadvantaged children, and co-wrote with KPMG the influential ‘Long term costs of literacy difficulties’ and ‘Long term costs of numeracy difficulties’ reports which make the economic case for effective early intervention . She recently sat on Demos’ Character Inquiry, which brought together a group of experts to explore the nature of character capabilities such as empathy, resilience and application, and their relevance to current policy debates.


She was awarded a CBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours, for services to education.