Welcome to the Changing Role of Specialist Provision in Supporting Inclusive Education project web area!

The Changing Role of Specialist Provision in Supporting Inclusive Education (CROSP) project focuses on the re-organisation of specialist provision to support the right to inclusive education for all learners. The project has two phases:

  • Phase 1 (2017–2018) covered a detailed mapping exercise on past and current trends and situations in 26 Agency member countries in relation to specialist provision, as well as on perceived future trends.
  • Phase 2 (2019–2022) builds on Phase 1’s main outcomes, focusing on peer-learning activities. These include thematic workshops with policy-makers from Agency member countries. The peer-learning approach aims to enable member countries to develop more effective strategies for improving specialist provision’s role for inclusive education.

Project framework

The current educational policy framework – incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in many countries – increasingly focuses on inclusive education systems that aim to meet the rights of all learners to an inclusive education with their peers in their local communities. All Agency member countries agree on and are working towards this vision for inclusive education systems. All learners, including those with disabilities and from vulnerable groups, have recognised rights to inclusive education.

A key question for many countries is, therefore, to clarify what specialist provision’s role should be in supporting all learners’ rights to inclusive education.

The CROSP methodology follows a peer-learning approach. It provides a forum for reviewing national policies in depth and collaboratively reflecting on other countries’ policies. The approach engages policy-makers with a shared professional focus and knowledge in pre-agreed activities and discussions with each other around four main issues to be considered for changing specialist provision’s role in supporting inclusive education: governance, funding, capacity building and quality assurance.

Participants and target group

All Agency member countries were invited to participate in the CROSP activities.

During Phase 1, 26 member countries (covering 27 jurisdictions) provided specific country information.

In Phase 2, 23 member countries participated in the first round of thematic workshops.

The project focuses on learners in International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) levels 1 and 2 (compulsory education). The main target group for the project outputs are national and regional-level policy-makers from different social sectors. These policy-makers are responsible for ensuring an effective framework of educational provision to meet all learners’ needs.


The CROSP project aims to identify and analyse the factors and key policy drivers within country policy and practice that influence the re-orientation of specialist provision’s role towards supporting inclusive education for all learners.

Phase 1 involved mapping Agency member countries’ past and current trends and situations in relation to specialist provision, as well as perceived future trends.

Phase 2 aims to enable countries to develop effective strategies to improve the changing role of specialist provision in implementing inclusive education.

Project activities and outputs

Phase 1: Mapping exercise (2017–2019)

Phase 1 aimed to provide an overview of the state of the art in Europe regarding the development of specialist provision and its relation to mainstream inclusive education.

The CROSP team used desk research to develop a project conceptual framework and a background document. Information from 26 member countries was collected to map their past, current and perceived future trends and situations in relation to specialist provision.

This detailed mapping exercise identified four main issues that are vital for changing the role of specialist provision:

  • Governance mechanisms to support co-operation among specialist and mainstream provision at all levels.
  • Funding policies and strategies supporting specialist provision to commit to inclusive education.
  • Capacity-building mechanisms enabling professionals from specialist provision to effectively support stakeholders in mainstream education.
  • Quality assurance mechanisms for specialist provision promoting transparent and accountable systems for inclusive education.

The CROSP synthesis report was the main outcome of Phase 1. The report’s findings provided the basis for further analysis during Phase 2.

Phase 2: Peer-learning activities (2019–2022)

Phase 2 aims to develop a tool that focuses on the four main issues to consider for changing the role of specialist provision: governance, funding, capacity building and quality assurance. Activities include:

  • the development of a project methodological framework (early 2020);
  • two rounds of thematic workshops (2020–2021);
  • on-going data analysis and development of the project tool (2020–2021);
  • a final meeting (2022).

The peer-learning activities include two rounds of thematic workshops (2020–2021). Participating countries are engaged in pre-agreed activities and discussions with each other on the four main issues. These workshops address three main questions:

  • What are the characteristics of policies and strategies that can support the transformation of specialist provision into a resource for mainstream education?
  • How can co-operation mechanisms between specialist and mainstream provision enable stakeholders (policy-makers, professionals, learners/peers, families, community) to implement and monitor inclusive education?
  • Which attitudes, skills and competences are required for professionals from specialist and mainstream provision to act as a resource for schools, learners and the wider community and to accept external resources?

First round of workshops (October 2020)

The first round of workshops identified policies and strategies for each thematic area (governance, funding, capacity building and quality assurance) that can effectively support the changing role of specialist provision towards inclusive education.

Second round of workshops (2021)

The second round of workshops will identify critical factors and key drivers for change for each issue to be embedded in the tool. It will also focus on the tool’s design and dissemination.

Final meeting

The final meeting will discuss the tool’s quality and usability, as well as the dissemination strategy and possible follow-up activities.

Other aspects

A communication platform for participants has been set up to allow discussions to continue between the two rounds of thematic workshops.

An animated video and a static infographic conveying key messages from the CROSP project have been produced. These multimedia outputs explain what specialist provision is, why its shifting role to support inclusive education is important and how policy can aid in this shift.

To ensure the quality of the CROSP activities, a project evaluator conducted formative evaluation of the peer-learning approach process. The resulting Formative Evaluation of Peer Learning report outlines the key findings.

compulsory education
country policy review
data collection

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