Praise for Portsmouth schools in SEND survey

The results of the annual Portsmouth Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) parent and carers’ survey are published today.

After the biggest response to a SEND survey to date, parents and carers show how much they value the support they get from Portsmouth schools. In an unusual year, with the survey being conducted in February and March when children and young people were mostly learning remotely from home, 86% of parents – a higher figure than in any previous year – responded positively when asked if they felt they were being listened to, with education staff being most often identified as the main keyworker who supports them. The highest rating (92%) was for children and young people with vision or hearing difficulty.

The survey was answered by parents and carers on behalf of 747 children and young people in the city with SEND – a representative sample of the total – and showed that the largest proportion of children and young people have needs related to communication and interaction (79%). Over half also have social, emotional or mental health needs (65%) and/or learning difficulty or disability (58%).

Although most children and young people (68%) in the families surveyed have an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), an EHCP is not necessary to access services. The survey showed that around half of those whose children or young person do not have an EHCP do know how to access support for their child/ young person’s SEND needs (49%).

Cllr Suzy Horton, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council, said: “I’m delighted with the level of response to the survey this year – thank you to everyone who took part. It’s so important that we hear the views of parents and carers to understand what’s working well and what we can improve for them and their children. One of the common misconceptions seems to be that a family needs an EHCP in order to access services, but in Portsmouth, that is not the case. We’re a ‘needs-led’ city, and there’s a lot of what we call ‘ordinarily available provision’ for children and their families when they need it, not just for those with an EHCP. The Portsmouth ‘ordinarily available provision’ guidance is often held up as an example of best practice.

“Mainstream and special schools, as well as organisations like Enable Ability, Portage and CAMHS, are all there to support families in Portsmouth, and they do fantastic work to help children and young people from birth to age 25. They’re helping children and young people who have hearing or sight loss, those with a range of neuro-diverse needs, dyslexia – anything that means that a child might need extra support with learning – and that has never been more important than now, as we come out of lockdown, with all the disruption there has been to children’s education during the pandemic.

“If your child needs extra help with their learning, for any reason, please speak to your school, or look on the Portsmouth SEND Local Offer website. The name ‘Local Offer’ isn’t exactly catchy, but it’s the name used nationally to describe the range of local SEND services on offer – I don’t think it helps people to find it sometimes, but all the information is on the website at www.portsmouthlocaloffer.org so please check it out!”

The survey shows that there was some frustration about appointments being postponed during the pandemic, with limited numbers for online services. By contrast, some parents found that the smaller group sizes in schools worked really well and made a big difference in boosting their child’s learning and progress.

The ability to travel independently, the development of skills needed for work and support for mental wellbeing were all highlighted as areas where parents and carers felt their children and young people with SEND needed extra support. Portsmouth City Council and partners are working on several initiatives to help children and young people with these skills.

Travelling independently around the city is one of the biggest challenges for children and young people; only 13% of parents and carers agree to some extent that their child or young person can travel independently. The majority of the sample have not received training to help them learn to travel to school independently (92%). Of those whose, children and young people have not received this training, over two fifths would be interested in receiving it (43%). This term, Portsmouth City Council, working with schools and other partners, will be restarting a project that had to be put on hold due to the pandemic to provide training to help children and young people who wish to travel to school or college more independently.

Just under a quarter of parents and carers ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that their child or young person is developing the skills they will need for work (24%). Plans are in place for the launch of a SEND Employability Hub, which will increase opportunities across the city for young people with SEND to develop employability skills, undertake work experience and progress to meaningful employment and training.

Over two fifths (42%) of parents and carers responding to the survey ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that their child or young person is experiencing mental ill-health and 38% of those surveyed agree to some extent that their children’s mental health needs are being met. It is hoped that the recent launch of Kooth.com earlier this year – an online mental wellbeing community for young people, offering free, safe and anonymous support, as well as online counselling if needed – will help to address this, complementing other local mental health support services, such as Solent Mind and Mental Health Support Teams working in Portsmouth schools.

For the full survey report plus information, support and services for all children and young people aged 0 – 25 with special educational needs or disabilities, please visit www.portsmouthlocaloffer.org.

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