SEND conference 2024

Experts share latest research at Cumberland Annual SEND Conference 2024

Experts from the field of special educational needs gathered in Carlisle, to share the latest developments and best practice at the Cumberland Annual SEND Conference 2024.  

The two-day conference, held on 11 and 12 January and hosted by Cumberland Council in partnership with the University of Cumbria, saw more than 80 guests join each day from education, health and social care settings across Cumbria. 

The conference showcased a number of keynote speeches from nationally renowned speakers. Delegates had the opportunity to hear from Professor Neil Mercer from the University of Cambridge, who was raised in Cockermouth and is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Cumbria.  Professor Mercer discussed the importance of oracy and young people being able to express themselves fluently, as well as the crucial roles of teachers in providing children with the language tools they need for learning and later life.

Keynote speeches were also delivered by Ellie Costello, director of Square Peg, an organisation that support children who struggle to attend school and their families. Ellie spoke about the significant impact of compassion and empathy surrounding long-term school absence. A two-part keynote speech was delivered by Malcolm Reeve, a National SEND Leader for the National Association for Special Educational Needs – a charitable membership organisation that exists to support and champion those working with, and for, children and young people with SEND and learning differences. The two-part speech focused on high quality teaching and SEND leadership in primary and secondary schools. 

SEND conference 2024 Malcolm Reeve

Above: nasen's Malcolm Reeve delivers his keynote speech

Eleven local and national organisations exhibited at the conference, and ten workshops promoting best practice were offered to attendees across the two days. Workshops ranged in topic from coproduction and working with parents and carers on key work streams, sensory processing; awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; and transitioning to adulthood.  

The conference presented an opportunity for colleagues and professionals to network, discuss their setting and approaches, and exchange thoughts on best practice. 

Sophie McCabe, headteacher at Mayfield School, and attending the conference as a guest, said: ‘It’s been a fantastic event to attend, and it’s wonderful to see an event of such scale about Special Educational Needs and Disabilities held in Cumbria. The workshops have been very insightful and informative, and it’s been brilliant to meet so many colleagues. We so rarely have the opportunity to meet in such a large group and share experiences, it’s been a really valuable few days.’

Cumberland councillor Elaine Lynch said: ‘It has been a pleasure to attend the Cumberland Annual SEND Conference. The keynote speakers and workshop hosts have all provided incredibly valuable information and insight to our attendees surrounding SEND, as well as practical approaches and skills, which we will hope we will see disseminated throughout schools and education settings in the Cumberland area.

It has been fantastic to have an opportunity to speak to colleagues about their experiences, as well as SENDAC, the parent-carer forum for the Cumberland area.’

Claire Vuckovic is a Senior Lecturer for SEND and Inclusion at the University of Cumbria's Institute of Education, Arts and Society.

Claire, who delivered two workshops across the two days, said: ‘The conference has been successful in bringing together SENCOs and professionals from across Cumbria and beyond to share knowledge and best practice.

‘Many delegates have studied or have links with the university and we are proud of our continued work with them and partners to support children, families and professionals in our communities.’

SEND Conference 2024 - Sally Elton-Chalcraft and Claire Vuckovic

Above: University of Cumbria Institute of Education, Arts and Society's Professor Sally Elton-Chalcraft and Claire Vuckovic, senior lecturer for SEND and Inclusion. 

Notes to editors


Main - Ellie Costello, director of Square Peg, delivering her keynote speech

Image 2 - nasen's Malcolm Reeve delivering his speech to the Cumberland Annual SEND Conference 2024