Understanding local variation
This NCB Research summary presents the main findings from a study commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and undertaken between March 2008 and August 2009 by NCB Research Centre and the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education.
The study explored local variation in prevalence of, and support and provision for, children with special educational needs (SEN)4 . The research considered hearing impairment and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as exemplar conditions.
- The study confirmed widespread variation between local authorities, but found that there were also common trends such as a commitment to working with other agencies.
- There is no simple explanation for the variation found between local authorities. It is likely to be the result of the interaction between a number of factors, making it difficult to disentangle cause and effect.
- Some variation is inevitable – and not necessarily undesirable – when local authorities are responding to local needs and circumstances. Local variation is clearly undesirable, however, if it reflects unmet need and inequities in access to, and level of, services.
- Factors supporting best practice include a strong ethos of inclusion; strong and effective multi-agency working; staff commitment and strong leadership; effective partnerships with stakeholders; and an adequate number of skilled staff at all levels.