The Howard Partnership Trust

Four things we learnt at #SENDCONF24

By Vanessa Walden, Head of Special Provision & Inclusion, and Bethanie Baldwin, Lead Practitioner for SEND

Every year, the National SEND & Inclusion Conference provides a rare opportunity for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) practitioners to come together.  We share our experiences, explore the latest thinking and discuss best practise.

This year, we attended on behalf of THPT.  Here are four things from the conference that really stood out:

  1. Getting to grips with Pathological Demand Avoidance – although often observed in Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) young people, it’s crucial to understand that classic ASC strategies will not always be effective when encountering demand avoidance. For example, using visuals – a common ASC strategy –can actually heighten the anxiety around demand.
  2. Nurturing a sense of identity – and developing that “sense of self” involves learning specific skills. Like all other skills, these need time to develop and practise.
  3. Collaboration is the future – across the world, there is great work underway to improve the way we support and nurture young people with special educational needs. Sharing resources and expertise is the key to driving improvement.
  4. Now is the time to speak up – both the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted are engaging in consultative exercises around the future of SEND provisions. On-the-ground specialists need to feed into these discussions to ensure real experiences and the best ideas are captured.

The National SEND & Inclusion Conference brought together voices from across the education landscape, including SENDCOs, inclusion leads, Headteachers, CEOs and representatives from Local Authorities, charities and social enterprises. 

Given THPT’s pioneering work in this area, it was brilliant to attend and discuss the issues with like-minded and passionate colleagues.  Once again, we were reminded of the scale of challenge that so many young people face as they begin their lives. 

But we were also encouraged by the passion, expertise and devotion of practitioners across the country, each of whom was committed to giving each young person the best possible start in life.