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Director of SEND Support awarded an OBE

30th December 2023 – Tags: Inclusive Learning, Staff

Elaine Dale, Director of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Support at City College Norwich, has been made an OBE for her services to further education.  

The OBE provides recognition of the enormous difference Elaine’s work has made to thousands of students at the college, and of the contribution she has made to developing SEND best practice more widely through the National SEND Centres for Excellence.  

Elaine Dale, Director of SEND Support and Nursery.

Elaine Dale, Director of SEND Support and Nursery.

Honour reflects the work of ‘an incredible team of dedicated, talented people’

Commenting on what it means to be named in the King’s New Year Honours List, Elaine says: 

I work with an incredible team of dedicated talented people and this honour is dedicated to all of us, not just me. The college’s leaders promote an inclusive culture and ethos that actively welcomes a diverse workforce. This approach has supported and enabled me to thrive here at City College Norwich. 


The work I have been doing through the National SEND Centre for Excellence has been a humbling experience. SEND colleagues have been so generous with their engagement and openness, which has enabled us to make significant sector change together, ensuring students with SEND can achieve their ambitions.” 

Elaine’s own educational journey gave her direct experience of the importance of providing the right support to young people with SEND – something she herself missed out on until one particular teacher changed everything. 

Education wasn’t easy for me with being neurodiverse. At school I was told that I wouldn’t achieve and I was written off. Moving to Norfolk, I flourished, my English teacher Mr Wallace had an amazing impact on me. I went to university and followed on with a Masters.  


All this coupled with a challenging childhood. I could never have imagined my life would turn out the way it has. I really think it is important to share my story so that others can see and believe it. It’s amazing to have achieved this unbelievable award.” 

Inspiring a culture of inclusion 

Elaine joined City College Norwich in 2011. Her passionate advocacy for SEND learners, coupled with her inclusive leadership style, has been key to embedding a culture of inclusion for students across all areas of the curriculum. 

The college has a long-standing reputation for the outstanding quality of its provision for students with high needs. Elaine has built on this, leading the college in achieving an ‘outstanding’ rating for this area of provision in the college’s latest Ofsted inspection in 2021.  

The inspection found that ‘leaders have ensured that the college provides exceptional support and as a result learners develop absolute confidence in achieving their ambitious targets.’ 

Since 2019 Elaine has led the college’s work as one of the National SEND Centres for Excellence, a project created and managed by the Education Training Foundation (ETF) and funded by the Department for Education (DfE).  

Elaine has played a key part in strategic change in the post-16 sector through leadership and developing a strong and challenging community of practice focussing on “Community”.   

This work has centred on unlocking employment opportunities for young people with SEND by working with employers across the country, and developing the systems and culture needed for high-quality teaching for learners with SEND to ensure students get an even better experience at their local college. 

To date, the Centre for Excellence based at City College Norwich has engaged with 6,000 SEND educationalists and 405 education providers up and down the country, with over 1,000 SEND practitioners and leaders directly benefitting from the support of Elaine and her colleagues.

Jerry White, Principal, City College Norwich, says: 

We were delighted when we heard about Elaine’s nomination as she has worked tirelessly to put inclusion at the heart of every organisation – not just at our own college, but in many others through the communities of practice established by the National SEND Centre for Excellence. 


She is a tenacious champion of learners with SEND, inspiring her colleagues to share and shape practice through inclusive leadership. Elaine is a real inspiration to us all and we are delighted that her immense contribution to our SEND learners, our college community, and the wider sector, has received this recognition.


In 2024, City College Norwich will be celebrating 50 years of specialist provision for young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. To have Elaine recognised in the King’s New Year Years honours for her work in this area has provided the best possible start to the year.”