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Portsmouth City Council’s first online Portsmouth Inclusion Conference was held on 22 October, celebrating the continued commitment by Portsmouth schools to high quality support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Around 100 teachers, education staff and other professionals who work with children with SEND attended the conference, which is normally held face to face but was moved online this year due to the pandemic.  Keynote speakers were Ian Hunkin, Director of the Sigma Teaching School and previously head teacher of The Harbour School, and Jarlath O’Brien, head teacher and behaviour columnist for the Times Educational Supplement.

With more than 4,000 children and young people in Portsmouth needing extra assistance for conditions such as anxiety, autism, ADHD or visual and other physical difficulties, the need for SEND support is increasing, and the ability of schools to provide support is vital as it allows the children to be part of their community, to develop a sense of belonging and become better prepared for life in the community as children and adults.

Cllr Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council, said: “It was fantastic to see so many people attending the online conference and demonstrating the commitment to providing a high and consistent standard of education which is accessible to all their pupils, no matter what their special educational needs or disabilities might be. We want to encourage every child’s talents and I thank all staff and professionals who have done a tremendous job in supporting pupils, particularly this year.”

The first online conference comes in the year that a unique new scheme was launched by Portsmouth City Council, designed to help schools work with each other to provide the best possible support to children. The new peer assessment, the Portsmouth Inclusive Education Quality Mark (PIE QM), addresses this need and helps schools to learn from each other and share best practice.

A recent survey of Portsmouth parents and carers of children with SEND showed that a large majority of respondents believe their views are listened to by professionals (80%) and over two-thirds of respondents who feel that their child or young person needs SEND support know how to access it (68%).

Information about the PIE QM and other support and local services for those working with children and young people with SEND, can be found on the Portsmouth SEND Local Offer website at