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Hackney Education's Pupil Forum

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What is the SEND Pupil Forum?

The definition of a forum is:

  • A situation or meeting in which people can talk about a problem or matter especially of public interest. 

  • A forum for debate and or discussion.

The purpose of the SEND Education Pupil Forum is to:

  • Champion inclusion of students with additional needs within schools in Hackney by hearing from them directly and responding to what they tell us. 

  • To support young people to work with SEND Teams from Hackney Education to promote effective inclusion within schools. 

If we ask, listen and respond to the views of children and young people who have additional needs, projects, services and experiences will be; improved, better informed, better targeted and more effective. 

The forum is jointly led by a Specialist Teacher and Hackney's Local Offer Coordinator who arrange workshops and speakers and lead on communication between schools, students, parent-carers and decision makers on behalf of the forum. 

Page last updated 24/04/22

Who is the Pupil Forum for?

The Pupil Forum is made-up of young people attending secondary schools.

Students can be in school Years 7 to 13 but student who will soon be starting secondary school may also be invited to specific sessions. 

Students wishing to take part in the forum should: 

  • Identify as having an additional need and/or disability or neurodiverse condition. Students can be on SEN Support, have an EHC Plan or a healthcare plan. 

  • Have some knowledge of their needs or disabilities

  • Be passionate about inclusion and teaching others about their needs or disabilities

  • Want to meet other young people who have additional needs

  • Be interested in helping organise events for young people with additional needs

  • Be happy to meet teams at Hackney Education who work with young people with additional needs, and learn about their work.

  • Be happy to be consulted on things relating to SEND at Hackney Education

  • Be interested in contributing to and supporting training at schools 

  • Want to get involved in projects for young people with additional needs both locally and nationally.

Sign Up - How can my child or young person get involved?

As sessions take place during the school day we need permission from parents AND the school for attendance. 

We are not able to include young people if a permission form has not been completed and returned to us. 

Please complete a permission form and we will be in touch with more information before the next meeting.

Pupil participation and attendance form for the session on 20 May 2022 

You will receive a copy of your completed form and another copy will be automatically sent to the forum coordinators when you have completed and submitted the form. 

School SENCos receive regular communication about when sessions are and we encourage them to put students forward to attend.

What are the aims of the forum and why should I take part?

The purpose of the SEND Education Pupil Forum is to:

  • Champion inclusion of students with additional needs within schools in Hackney by hearing from them directly and responding to what they tell us.
  • Work with the SEND Teams within Hackney Education to promote effective inclusion within schools.

Forum members will be participating to help achieve these aims.

Benefits for members of participating in the forum meetings and activities:

  • Meet and network with students from other settings in Hackney,
  • Share experiences or discuss issues that affect them and share ideas for how to positively include young people with additional needs in school life.
  • You will be helping to create meaningful change for a wider group of young people with additional needs in Hackney.
  • Learn new skills from professionals to bring back into your school.
  • Create opportunities for SEND Services to include young people in their decision making to support a better fit between young people and services.
  • Meet and talk with decision makers from SEND services in Hackney. The forum will get involved in local projects for young people with SEND, as well as wider projects in London and Nationally.
  • Develop skills and gain valuable experience such as experience of SEND departments at Hackney Education
  • Use the experience gained as a member as an example when applying for further education and jobs.

Who decides what the forum discusses and does?

A small group of young people (from mainstream and specialist schools) who have a range of additional needs are the Inclusion Ambassadors for the Pupil Forum.  

An initial planning meeting was held with them to discuss how they would like sessions to be structured and what the focus of sessions should be.

Meetings with this group of young people take place inbetween the main sessions so that we are developing the forum with young people and supporting issues they want to progress. 

What has been discussed at the forum so far?

Before the forum was set up in it’s new form a pupil participation audit was undertaken in schools. The audit was taken out over the space of 5 weeks, to gather pupil's views on inclusion, education and pupil voice. The audit also provided an opportunity to explore interest in the SEND pupil forum, so that it could be relaunched in 2021.

  • 82 young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities have taken part in this survey or audit. . 

  • 52 young people with EHCPs

  • 30 young people on SEN Support 

  • A number of the students with EHCPs who took part, did not know what an EHCP was or that they had one.

Questions were taken from the CDC participation audit. These questions offered an opportunity for the young people to have their voices heard about inclusion, education and what they think is needed for young people with SEND in Hackney and more widely.


Q. Have you ever met anyone from the Local Authority SEND Teams or specialist services? 

A. 42% said no, 38% said yes, 20% said they were unsure. 

Q. Before this, has anyone asked you how you feel about SEND Provision and opportunities in Hackney?

A. 58% said no, 21% said yes, 21% said they were unsure. 

Q. Are you included in the decision making about how you are supported within school? 

  • 28% I get asked
  • 46% My parents get asked
  • 26% It’s even

Q. Are you happy to go to events and clubs at your school or outside of school?

  • 57% said Yes
  • 15% said No
  • 25% said Sometimes 

Q. Are there lots of opportunities for you to help organise and are there events, trips or outings to go on?

  • 40% said Yes
  • 60% said No

Q. Do you get to speak to your school council reps about inclusion, or are you on the school council?

  • 9% said Yes
  • 85% said No
  • 6% said that they were on the school council

Q. Do you feel confident that you have the right support network to help you achieve what you want out of life?

  • 38% felt they had the right support network to help them 
  • 7% felt that they didn’t have the right support network to help them
  • 55% were unsure whether they felt sully supported

Building on what we learnt from the audit a small group of pupils who expressed particular interest in attending a new forum during the audit met in November 2021 to plan these sessions with a specialist teacher and Hackney''s SEND Local Offer Coordinator. 

On Friday the 10th December 2021 the first formal session of Hackney’s newly revived SEND Pupil Forum took place. 

The developing COVID context affected the number of young people attending the session. Some schools were unsure if they should attend. Others were very keen to go ahead. It felt important to start this work so a decision was reached to go ahead and  run the session in person. 28 students were due to attend but in the end 15 new students attended. Combined with the Inclusion Ambassadors this is a good group of young people to work with. 

We will continue to actively seek new participants. 

Activities were based on discussion during the SEND Forums planning session with the young leaders. Creative activities were also available.  

A Words workshop encouraged students to feel more comfortable when discussing their needs or self-advocating. Context was key to students' understanding of terminology. Students related the word assessment to school work or exams and not with a SEND needs assessment. 

Students felt the  term disability put everyone in a non-specific group. They need more discussion to help them find and feel comfortable with language that describes their needs. The term Neurodiversity was introduced and discussed. School staff said they preferred this term and would use it more in schools.  More regular discussions need to happen with older students who have navigated some of the feelings and issues that arise from discussing needs.  

A second workshop, Who I am at school - Who I am at home, explored  why we are different at home and school. Students provided good suggestions on how to make lessons more engaging by including peer discussion and ensuring activities were pitched at an accessible and helpful level. Out of school many students would like more peer interaction and youth opportunities that feel inclusive. One student said there should be groups where people are taught how to be kind.

In May 2022 the forum session will be focussing on transtion to secondary school. Students who have been through this themselves will tlak about what it was like and share their top tips for a happy transition. If there are comon concerns these will be rised with schools to see what support can help. 

We are also hoping to run a new project with 2 artists drawing portraits of the young people at the forum which will be used to create a piece of art for disply. We will share more on this project after the session. 

On July 1 we will have an end of year celebration and have invited Richard Reisser to come and speak to the forum. Richard is well respects campaigner for Disability Rights. He is a founder of UK Disability History Month (November to December each year) and among other things has spoken at the United Nations about equality and disability. 

What are we doing with what the students have told us?

Firstly we invited and followed up with students who expressed an interest in being involved in opportunities to help promote inclusion and shape services. 

We have presented the findings from the audit and the forum sessions to date to service leads and senior decision makers. 

We have run a session with workshops on language used when discussing needs and how students are at school and how they are at home. 

We listened to what the founding Inclusion Ambassadors said about session structure and provided lunch, breakout spaces and other activities at the next session. 

Students have told us they appreciate adults with disabilities who have achieved in life coming and talking to them. We have identified some people we would like to present to students and are in the process of inviting them (COVID permitting) to future forum meetings. 

We are looking at how to continue making being a forum member as rewarding and impactful for young people as we can.

How often will the Pupil Forum meet?

The forum is scheduled to meet 4 times across the school year with an annual conference in the Summer Term. 

A decision has been made with young people to keep these meetings in person or postpone them until we can meet in person, if this does not cause too much of a delay to mess with venue bookings. 

Meetings take place during term time and during the school day with permission and support from settings. 

So far settings have welcomed this opportunity and have been supportive of their students attending.

What are people saying about the forum?

It made me really happy when you said you were making a group. I was so excited I ran down the corridor and had to pick my friend up because I was so happy.


Really nice to be able to meet with other people/schools from the borough.  Nice to see a range of needs amongst the schools and how engaged the students were.

School Staff

(Nice) Hearing young people's opinions - they were much more forthcoming with ideas etc away from school. Would love to attend again!

School Staff

Where does the forum meet?

A decision was made to ensure forum meetings happen in a high quality cultural setting in Hackney. Not in an education or health setting. The venue for the forum meetings is fully accessible. The spaces are bright, clean and COVID safe. Students have enjoyed the setting for the forum.

As a safeguarding measure, only those signed up for a session will have venue details shared with them.

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