Thomas Keaney | TCES Group | London, UK
Thomas has been responsible for transforming the lives of many young people throughout his career.After 13 years in social work, specialising in children’s mental health services, Thomas 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 built 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 over 3,000 of the most challenging pupils with complex needs. He is proud that he has never permanently excluded one of them.
Always putting children at the centre, Thomas is prepared to take on pupils who others see as unteachable, achieving success with them where others have failed. He has a strong belief in each of them and the highest of expectations, taking great pride in helping them to learn and succeed. His schools provide a welcome safe haven from external stresses and youth culture pressures, ensuring that pupils learn to be themselves and leave TCES Group with qualifications, social and emotional skills, a sense of well-being and esteem.
Thomas works hard to ensure that pupil’s 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 believes that these positive messages have a significant impact on pupils and remove any excuses or negative stereo types, showing them that with collective high expectations and hard work they can each achieve anything.
An inspiration to his staff, Thomas leads TCES Group as a welcoming and inclusive
community, where differences and diversity are celebrated and seen as significant strengths. 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. The only labels entertained in the schools are those that refer to all pupils as talented young leaders. Two of the schools have been awarded the Inclusion Quality Mark and the third is well on its way towards achieving it, serving as recognition of the vision and leadership in inclusive practice that Thomas has modelled as Schools Proprietor over the past 20 years.
Determined to lead his staff on a course of continual improvement, Thomas is charismatic
and innovative, striving to provide thriving and emotionally healthy environments and services which are often unique and industry leading. He firmly believes that the often-challenging circumstances of his pupil’s early childhood experiences and the social isolation and marginalisation they experience due to their diagnosis leads to hidden talents, skills and qualities that should be sought out and channelled positively through leadership skills for the benefit of themselves and the wider community.
He achieves this in numerous ways, one being the introduction of group process, which has
supported many pupils to develop their speech, language, social, emotional and communication skills, allowing them to be themselves and to lead much more independent lives when they leave school. His passionate belief in empowering pupils to have a ‘real’ voice and encouragement of their participation in all areas of school life has produced very positive results, with the most isolated and challenging pupils, rather than the best behaved, successfully taking on key roles within the Student and Anti-Bullying Councils.
Thomas says “I love the Inclusive feel of our schools and am so proud that, no matter who is referred to us, they will be entering a safe space where they can drop their external need to be guarded and act grown up and can just be children enjoying their education.
“My therapeutic work as a Social Worker was significantly different to the culture within education, but it is also exactly what is needed in education. This includes face to face regular staff supervisions, supporting staff through reflective practice groups, empowering pupils, parents and staff to have a ‘real’ voice and participation, running group processes for all pupils and staff without an agenda, seeing complaints as an opportunity to develop even better relationships and seeing children’s behaviour as a communication that our staff must understand.
“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 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".