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SEN Policy Research Forum Exeter

About us
Rationale and orientation

This Forum contributes intelligent analysis and the use of knowledge and experience to promote the development of policy and practice for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Forum is concerned with children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities from pre-school to post 16 (0-25 years). It will cover the whole of the UK and aims to:

  1. provide timely policy review and critique through policy seminars, policy papers and a website blog,
  2. promote debate,
  3. set longer term agendas – acting like a think-tank,.
  4. deliberate and examine policy options in the field.
  5. inform research and development work in the field.
  6. promote learning on knowledge transfer between academic, policy and professionals.
  7. establish robust routes to media outlets.


The Forum recognises alternative UK terms, such as ‘additional support needs’ and ‘additional learning needs’ as well as the uncertainties over what counts as ‘special educational needs’ and ‘disabilities’ in relation to a wider issues about provision requirements.  These will be among the many issues examined through the Forum

The Forum is very grateful to:

nasen for its continued support and advice relating to funding and sponsorship opportunities, and the Pears Foundation for the financial support for the website and forum activities.

Background and origin of Forum

The establishment of the Forum builds on over 20 years of work and experience by the SEN Policy Options Group since the early 1990s. This Group organised an ESRC – Cadbury Trust series policy seminars on policy options for special educational needs. The success of the series led to further seminars, which were supported financially by the NASEN, the leading UK professional organisation in this field.

The Group, whose membership includes academics, researchers, policy consultants, local authority and voluntary organisation officers, has published over 40 policy papers arising from these seminars. The Forum plans to continue with the seminars and policy papers, while extending its range of activities which is especially appropriate in the current policy context.

Joining the Forum

If you would like to join the Forum please contact us here.


The Forum has a Lead group:

Co-coordinators: Dr Peter Gray, Policy Consultant; Dr Rob Webster, Researcher/Consultant;  Dr Julie Wharton, University of Winchester.

Members: Yolande Burgess, Young People’s Education and Skills, London Councils;  Dr Susana Castro Kemp, UCL Institute of Education; Annamarie Hassall, CEO nasen; Beate Hellawell, Lewisham Local Authority/UCL Institute of Education;  Brian Lamb, Policy consultant;  Professor Geoff Lindsay, University of Warwick; Professor Brahm Norwich, University of Exeter ;   Penny Richardson, Policy Consultant;  Chris Robertson, SENCO Forum, University of Birmingham; Sharon Smith, PhD researcher, University of Birmingham and Parent Advocate;