Two female University of Cumbria Institute of Education academics with two senior education figures at Cumbria County Council.

Strengthening SEND support in the North West

With increasing numbers of children in England with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) requiring support, our education and health professionals and student teachers across the North West are sharing latest thinking and best practice at the University of Cumbria.

The Learning, Education and Development research centre, within the university’s respected Institute of Education, and Cumbria County Council have organised a joint conference for the county’s SEND professionals. 

Keynote speakers at today's conference (13 Jan 2023) are Kevin Burns, regional SEND professional adviser from the Department for Education, and nasen’s Rachel Hargreaves. They have joined more than 120 SEND professionals from schools, the NHS, SENDAC – the SEND Alliance Cumbria parent and carer forum, and other related settings for the event at the university’s Fusehill Street campus, Carlisle. 

Practical and practice-led workshops including SEND in the Early Years, sensory processing needs, augmentative and alternative communications, and the transition from school-based support to help in adulthood have been taking place. 

Dan Barton, assistant director (Education and Skills), Cumbria County Council; Dr Ruth Harrison-Palmer, director of the university’s Institute of Education; and Learning, Education and Development research centre director Professor Sally Elton-Chalcraft opened the conference, which it is hoped will become an annual event. 

Mr Barton said: “Our Cumbria SEND local offer is vital in supporting individuals and families across Cumbria. We’re delighted to work with the university, schools and professionals across the sector to host this inaugural conference, allowing us to reaffirm, build and shape our collective learning, research and practice together.” 

Dr Harrison-Palmer said: “As a university for and from Cumbria, working with our strategic partners, it is our mission to inspire and equip our graduates and communities to thrive. Enabling us to have the greatest impact, the Institute of Education works with professionals and employers to help ensure that our quality teacher education programmes continue to deliver the higher levels skills and knowledge that the sector, our region and our future generations require. 

“We are immensely proud of the transformational impact that our students, graduates and staff have in supporting all young people to reach their full potential.”

Professor Sally Elton-Chalcraft, a professor of social justice (pictured below with Kevin Burns) said: “Everyone should have the same opportunity to access education and success regardless of any barriers faced. Therefore, an event such as this helps professionals identify and explore existing, contemporary and emerging issues and work together to identify how we can all provide the best support for children, learners and families across the region and beyond.”

SEND conference 3 Kevin Burns DfE and UoC Sally EC

The University of Cumbria delivers one of the few undergraduate teacher education programmes in the country which offers a specialism in SEND and inclusion for those who have a particular interest in this key area. 

In addition,

  • Award-winning alumna inspires student SEND teachers 

After being named Teacher of the Year by nasen, University of Cumbria alumna Jemini Patel has been sharing her expertise with student teachers at the university’s Lancaster campus who are specialising in SEND and inclusion. nasen is the UK’s leading organisation supporting those who work with or care for children and young people with SEND.

University of Cumbria education graduate Jemini Patel, winner of 2022 nasen Teacher of the Year award

Jemini (pictured, right) qualified as a teacher in 2014 upon graduation from her Early Years education programme at the university’s campus in London. Enjoying an impressive career, she is currently an assistant headteacher in Harrow.

  • Centenary commemorations celebrating education pioneer Charlotte Mason 

With its progressive approach, the University of Cumbria draws upon its rich heritage in sectors like the arts and education, including initial teacher training that stretches back to the work of pioneer Charlotte Mason who died a century ago. 

Centenary commemorations are due to place throughout 2023, planned jointly by the university and its partners The Armitt Museum, and the US-based Charlotte Mason Institute. Further details can be found here, or at