Improvements to transport services and help with transitioning to adulthood are some of the issues 280 young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in Portsmouth raised in a recent survey, the results of which are now available and already being used to make changes.
Young people aged 13–25 had their say on the current support services earlier this year when Portsmouth City Council launched its bi-annual survey in collaboration with Dynamite youth group, a charity that specialises in supporting young people with SEND to share their opinions.
The survey is a chance for them to give their views on the current support they are receiving: whether they feel the support is enabling them to prepare for adulthood, whether they feel their views are listened to, and their awareness of and satisfaction with the Local Offer website.
Dynamite have recently had an election to elect new chairs and Ruby Jewell and Cameron Locke were voted in as co-chairs. In response to the survey, they have formed five new committees who will concentrate on the following topics which came up:
- health and wellbeing
- travel and transport
- climate change and green
- education and employment
- leisure, culture and sport
New Dynamite co-chair Cameron Locke, 23, said:
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be co-chair of Dynamite. I aim to make sure that everyone’s opinion is heard. I will try to be the best co-chair I can be and someone that members can look up too.”
Cllr Suzy Horton, the council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education, said:
“We pride ourselves in Portsmouth for being an inclusive city and for the services we provide for children and young people with SEND. We really value the input that they and their parents and carers give us to help us continue to improve the support we can offer, and I am pleased that once again so many young people chose to take part in the survey.
“It is so important that we help all young people to achieve their aspirations and remove as many barriers as we can to help them to progress. I encourage business, organisations and services across the city to look at the results and consider what improvements they could make to support young people with SEND in our city.”
Sarah Mitas, who runs Dynamite youth group, said:
“Members of our group have already formed committees to respond to the survey results and see where things can be improved. We also want Dynamite to be more present in schools and colleges to encourage people to join or to have their voice heard by voicing to a representative.”
Areas the group have identified for improvement include improving travel services within the city and encouraging services to implement travel training for all people with SEND and help prepare tips on transitioning into college and into adult life.
Over the past six years, the council has made significant investment, totalling £11.49m, in SEND accommodation across the city, including schemes to reconfigure accommodation to meet the more complex needs of pupils at Cliffdale Primary and Redwood Park academies and the Lantern, which is part of the Mary Rose Academy. The development of the Harbour Vocational Centre @ The Vanguard has also been achieved.
There have also been a number of schemes to adapt the environment so that pupils with SEND can benefit from attending mainstream schools, such as the inclusion centre for sensory impairment at St Edmund’s, and new hygiene rooms at a number of schools across the city. New inclusion centres at Penhale Infant School and The Portsmouth Academy have been developed, with plans to open another at Arundel Court Primary Academy under way, along with current work to expand the inclusion centre at Flying Bull Academy. And finally, Wymering Special Free School will be opening in April 2023 to provide specialist school places for children with a neurodiverse profile, autism and associated challenging and distressed behaviour.
The survey results can be viewed at https://yourcityyoursay.portsmouth.gov.uk/send-consultation-2022/
For more information about services for young people with SEND, including information on Dynamite youth group, visit www.portsmouthlocaloffer.org