Number of pupils with SEN in England increases for the first time since 2010

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The total number of pupils in England with identified special educational needs (SEN) has increased for the first time since 2010, according to government figures.

The latest Statistical Release from the Department for Education (DfE) show that there were 1,244,255 pupils with SEN in January 2017, an increase of 15,470 on January 2016. The percentage of pupils with special educational needs remains stable at 14.4 per cent, however,  as the total number of pupils in England has increased.

Of the 1.24 million pupils with SEN approximately a fifth (242,185) have a statement of SEN or an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. This is an increase of 5,380 since January 2016, but remains equal to 2.8 per cent of the total pupil population.

A further 1,002,070 pupils are on SEN support. This is equal to 11.6 per cent of the total pupil population and remains unchanged since January 2016. Moderate Learning Difficulty (MLD) is the most common (22.7 per cent) primary type of need overall; this percentage has decreased from 24.2 per cent in January 2016.

At  25.2 per cent MLD is also the most common type of need for pupils on SEN support. The second most common at 22.0 per cent is Speech, Language and Communications Needs.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) remains the most common primary type of need for pupils with a statement or EHC plan; 26.9 per cent of these pupils had ASD as their primary type of need in January 2017. This has increased from 25.9 per cent in January 2016.

Speech, Language and Communications Needs is the second most common (14.3 per cent) primary type of need for pupils with a statement or EHC plan.

The percentage of pupils with a statement or EHC plan attending maintained special schools has seen a year-on-year increase since January 2010. In January 2010, 38.2 per cent of pupils with statements attended maintained special schools, and this has increased to 43.8 per cent of pupils with statements or EHC plans in January 2017.

The percentage of pupils with statements or EHC plans attending independent schools has also increased year on year between January 2010 and January 2017, from 4.2 per cent to 5.8 per cent.

The percentage of pupils with SEN without statements or EHC plans attending independent schools has also gradually increased each year. In January 2010, 4.0 per cent of pupils with SEN without statements or EHC plans attended independent schools and this has increased to 6.7 per cent of pupils in January 2017.

The percentage of pupils with SEN without statements or EHC plans attending state-funded primary schools also increased over the seven-year period, from 51.4 per cent to 57.0 per cent. Meanwhile, the percentage of pupils with SEN without statements or EHC plans attending state-funded secondary schools has declined over the same period, from 43.6 per cent to 34.4 per cent.

There are currently 1,037 state-funded and non-maintained special schools in England. The approved provision type is the type of special need for which the school is formally approved to make provision. The most common approved provision type for special schools is Autistic Spectrum Disorder (662) followed by Severe Learning Difficulty (556) and Moderate Learning Difficulty (537).

Alison Ryan, senior policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said the latest figures raised difficult questions for the Government:

With 15,000 more pupils identified with SEN than last year, inadequate school funding and savage cuts to local authority support services it is increasingly impossible for many schools to provide suitable learning environments and support for the most vulnerable pupils. This means the needs of some children are not being formally identified and others are not getting crucial support.

High quality SEND provision comes at a cost, but this investment is repaid many times over when young people go on to live happy, fulfilled and independent adult lives. This Government has abandoned many children who require additional support, which has left schools and families struggling to pick up the pieces. Many parents find navigating the education, health and care plan (EHCP) application process too complex, confusing and takes far too long. We are concerned that many local authorities (LAs) will not make the 2018 conversion deadline.

The growing trend for placing pupils with EHCPs in special schools over mainstream schools must be investigated. The school a child attends should be the best one for their situation. ATL is concerned that due to funding cuts, curriculum reform and staff shortages children are sometimes unable to stay in mainstream schools in which they could thrive with proper resources.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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