The Special Educational Needs Regional Partnerships (SEN RPs) have made a substantial and marked contribution to the government’s agenda regarding provision for pupils with SEN, according to a report* from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

The report considers composition of the partnerships, the roles of facilitators and consultants and models of working practice and concludes that, for a relatively modest financial input to each region, the DfES has released a considerable degree of professional time and expertise across authorities. This, in turn, results in outcomes which improve professional practice and quality of provision, and extend the repertoire of strategies and approaches in relation to services for young people with SEN.

There are a number of factors, which are, collectively, peculiar to the SEN RPs and have seemed to generate their success. These include:

  • nurturing positive partnerships at local and regional level: giving a means (via engagement in task groups and networks) of professionals understanding each other’s thinking and way of working, and admitting to dilemmas and areas of weakness (and seeking solutions corporately)
  • enabling policy-makers (via fluid task groups and effective action-planning) to get immediate and reliable feedback from practitioners and end-users and, in turn, enabling good practice on the ground to be disseminated and, where appropriate, more formally established in policy
  • facilitating positive partnerships between regions and national government by mutual engagement in a developing agenda and sharing of ideas without any formal obligations or management
  • formalising partnerships by developing products (eg protocols, information packs, data sets) which offer a framework for action/provision and have a high degree of acceptability on account of their ownership within the partnership; and establishing services which meet local needs (having emerged through a consultative process)
  • ensuring relevance, viability and quality of initiatives by involving a range of stakeholders representing multiple perspectives
  • ensuring partnership activities/ initiatives are adequately ‘serviced’ (usually via the facilitator), have progression, and interact
  • maintaining open and transparent ways of working which promote honest and trusting relationships which allow difficulties to be acknowledged and addressed.

* Fletcher-Campbell, F, Chamberlain, T and Smith, P (2006). Evaluation of the Special Educational Needs Regional Partnerships (DfES Research Report 724). London: DfES.

Note: Special Educational Needs Regional Partnerships are now referred to as Regional Partnerships.