SEN numbers increase for second consecutive year

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The number of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) has increased for a second consecutive year from 1,244,255 in January 2017 to 1,276,215 in January 2018, an increase from 14.4% to 14.6% of pupils.

The increase is revealed in the latest statistics released by the Department for Education, which show the picture as of January 2018. Not surprisingly the number with a SEN statement or Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan has also increased, to 253,680. This is an increase of 11,495 since January 2017, from 2.8% of the total pupil population to 2.9%.

A further 1,022,535 pupils are on SEN support. This is equal to 11.7% of the total pupil population, an increase from 11.6% in January 2017.

The most common primary types of need have remained the same since 2017.

For pupils on SEN support Moderate Learning Difficulty is the most common primary type of need, accounting for 24.0%. For pupils with a statement or EHC plan Autistic Spectrum Disorder was the primary type of need, accounting for 28.2%.

Speech, Language and Communication Needs is the second most common primary type of need for both pupils on SEN support (22.8%) and with a statement or EHC plan (14.6%). The new statistics also confirm the growth in the percentage of pupils with statements or EHC plans attending both state-maintained special schools and registered independent schools.

In 2010, 38.2% of pupils with statements or EHC plans attended state-maintained special schools but this has increased every year since, and now stands at 44.2%. The percentage of pupils with statements or EHC plans attending registered independent schools has increased from 4.2% to 6.3% over the same eight-year period.

The trend has been the opposite in the case of state-maintained secondary schools. Whereas 28.8% of pupils with statements or EHC plans attended these schools in 2010 the figure for 2018 is 20.9%. SEN remain more prevalent in boys than girls: 14.7% of boys were on SEN support in January 2018 compared to 8.2% of girls. There is little change here from January 2017.

Pupils with SEN also remain more likely to be eligible for free school meals — 25.8% compared to 11.5% of pupils without special educational needs. Pupils with statements or EHC plans are more likely to be eligible for free school meals than pupils on SEN support (30.9% compared to 24.5%).

Travellers of Irish heritage and black Caribbean pupils had the highest percentage of pupils with statements or EHC plans (4.5% and 4.2% respectively). Indian pupils had the lowest percentage of pupils with statements or EHC plans at 1.8%, compared with 2.9% of all pupils nationally.

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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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