children in classroom

Researchers have uncovered broad differences in the achievement of disadvantaged children

Children, parents and teachers will take part in an innovative Citizens Panel tasked with improving education for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

The panel will come up with new ideas to make schools and colleges more inclusive. They will review the design of the school system and analyse what is working well and what is not.

They will hear evidence from experts and debate and decide what needs to happen to ensure students with SEND feel welcome in school and succeed.

The Citizen’s Panel will be made up of 30 people – children aged 12 to 16 with SEN and/or disabilities, as well as parents, carers and teachers. It is being held as part of a UK-wide project funded by UKRI and managed by the RSA.

The research is led by Professor Brahm Norwich from the University of Exeter and Dr Rob Webster from the University of Portsmouth. Before the Citizens Panel they will consult about methods to better enable young people with SEN/disabilities to participate effectively in the panel with adults and young people without SEN/disabilities.

Professor Norwich said: “This is a unique opportunity to help shape the public dialogue about inclusion in schools. We want people to take part who have a wide range of views and experiences and they do not need any prior knowledge on inclusion or SEND to take part.

“We are particularly, but not exclusively, interested in hearing from young people with SEND and their parents/carers, and from young people who are not attending school and their parents/carers.”

The Citizens’ Panel events will be led by Involve, the UK’s leading public participation charity, with support from SEND specialists. The Sortition Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation specialising in the recruitment for these kinds of events, will randomly select people to take part in the Citizens’ Panel. The project is being designed and evaluated by a team comprising of educationalists, from the University of Exeter and the University of Portsmouth, with support and advice from the SEN Policy Research Forum.

Dr Webster said: “The key purpose of the Citizens’ Panel is to agree a set of practical recommendations that can have a real-world impact on the experiences children and young people with SEND have of school. The project team will come up with recommendations which will be shared with local and national policymakers, education professionals and organisations/groups.”

The Citizens’ Panel events will be held in Portsmouth and online in March. Lunch and travel costs will be provided. Participants will receive £150 for taking part and will remain anonymous. For further information email or