Paula Smith, Tamsin Chamberlain, Felicity Fletcher-Campbell
01 June 2006
In autumn 2003, the NFER was commissioned by the DfES to undertake the evaluation of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Regional Partnerships (RPs) up to December 2005. A previous evaluation had discussed the first phase of their development, when the idea was being piloted. This research summary represents the final stage in the evaluation; it makes reference to previous interim reports presented to DfES in January 2004 and February 2005 respectively. The second of these reports informed Ministerial decision-making about the future of the partnerships. However, the decision was delayed and the announcement about the SEN RPs' future was not made until a meeting of the National Steering Group at the beginning of November 2005. The final year of the NFER's evaluation, reported here, was, thus, conducted amidst a considerable degree of uncertainty in the partnerships but it should be noted that this uncertainty had minimal effect on those stakeholders who were already committed and active: this can only be explained by the strength of the networks and collaboration established by the facilitators.
The SEN RPs have made a substantial and marked contribution to the government's agenda regarding provision for pupils with SEN. The relatively modest financial input to each region by DfES has released a considerable degree of professional time and expertise across authorities which, 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. It is doubtful that activity would have occurred without this catalyst. There is growing evidence of trans-regional activity which contributes further value for money. The national communications strategy has raised the profile of the SEN RPs across the country.