Building a Community in SEND

David Bartram writes about how we can improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND across the UK.

On the 10th of January Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, Edward Timpson MP, announced £60,000,000 in new funding for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The funding, coming into play from April 2017 onwards, aims to ensure that “all children, no matter the obstacles they face, should have the same opportunities for success as any other”.

This is a great opportunity, but money alone cannot bring about the change needed. Across the education sector we need to use this momentum to work together – to collaborate, innovate and build a lasting community in SEND.

Through my work in schools across the UK as a teacher, SEND reviewer and now Director for SEND at London Leadership Strategy (a non profit school to school network), I have seen first hand the wealth of experience and insight that exists within the system, amongst SENDCos, teachers, senior leaders, parents, carers, the third sector and young people themselves. There is so much potential here, and I believe we have a duty to realise this potential, in order to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND across the UK.

In May last year London Leadership Strategy brought together a group of charities, forums and schools that shared this aim, called the Whole School SEND Consortium. Now, nearly a year on, we are holding our first SEND Summit on the 23rd of February, creating a platform for practitioners to ask questions, share what works and what doesn’t, meet peers and contribute to policy moving forward.

The philosophy behind the Summit is simple:

  1. Much of the knowledge and experience needed to solve problems and improve provision already exists within the system. We need to identify, embed and scale what is already working well.

  2. By bringing together members of the SEND community we can mobilise these solutions, encouraging a system in which all the members share experience, support one another and help each other improve.

  3. In order to do this we must network and share knowledge as much as possible. Rather than gathering to listen to a series of keynote speakers and panels, the Summit will host a series of quickfire round-table discussions, drop-in surgery sessions with specialists, and free resource showcases in order to give all attendees the chance to meet each other and learn from each other.

  4. For a community to be strong it must be lasting. The Summit will be used to inform policy moving forward and input to several significant projects in development. Furthermore the Summit will launch an online platform for attendees, a trusted network within which users can troubleshoot, offer support and test resources into the future, linking to NASEN and the SEND Gateway’ s work gathering examples of good practice in SEND.

Edward Timpson MP will be opening the Whole School SEND Summit on the 23rd of February. We hope it will be a chance to show him that there is a passionate, experienced, innovative community building which is committed to improving SEND provision and to improving outcomes for young people with SEND. If you feel you have something to contribute to this community, or you feel you could learn from it, we would love to see you there.


David is Director for SEND at the London Leadership Strategy. He has visited and worked with over two hundred SEND departments since March 2009, working collaboratively with London Challenge, NCTL and the DfE to support targeted schools.


To find out more about Whole School SEND Summit click here



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