SEN in England 2017: behind the numbers

Will Tucker, Council for Disabled ChildrenAuthor Will Tucker, Council for Disabled ChildrenDate 01 Aug 2017

The Department for Education (DfE) has released information on pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in England, and there are some interesting patterns in the data. Here we pick a few of them out.

A woman and children reading a book
The population is growing, but the percentage with plans or statements stays the same

There are more pupils than there were in 2016, but the growth in pupils with SEN has been proportional to this. 5,380 more pupils have an EHC plan or statement of SEN compared to last year – but this is still 2.8% of the population. Likewise, the number of pupils receiving some SEND support still measures 11.6% of the population.

The most common primary types of needs are also the same

There is also no change in the primary type of need for pupils, either. For those with statements of EHC plans, 26.9% have Autistic Spectrum Disorder as their leading need, whereas those on SEND support are most likely to have primarily Moderate Learning Difficulty (25.2%).

Percentage of pupils with statements or plans in maintained special schools continues to climb

The percentage of pupils with a statement or EHC plan attending maintained special schools has gone up every year since 2010, to now stand at 43.8%. There is also a notable increase in statemented pupils attending independent schools, from 4.2% in 2010 to 5.8% this year. These increases appear to be at the expense of state-funded secondary schools, whose share of the population has declined by more than 6% since 2010.

Boys still more likely to have SEN support than girls…

Boys continue to be more likely to receive SEN support than girls: 14.6% of boys received such support this year, compared to just 8.1% of girls. When it comes to statements and EHC plans, the picture is similar: 4% of boys have them, as do 1.6% of girls.

…And boys still more likely to have Autistic Spectrum Disorder

The clearest manifestation of the gender gap is seen when looking at pupils with statements or EHC plans with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: 31% of boys, nearly a third, have this as their primary need, and just 15.7% of girls do, half as many.

Poverty playing a part?

26.6% of pupils with SEN are eligible for free school meals compared to 11.8% of pupils without SEN. This distinction can even be seen between pupils with statements or EHC plans than pupils on other SEN support: 31.4% compared to 25.4%. Pupils with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs were the most likely of all to be on free school meals: 32.3% on SEN support and 42% with statements or plans were eligible in 2017.

The differing effects of race and language

Differences in ethnicity and English as a first or additional language threw up some interesting results. Pupils whose first language is thought to be English were more likely to have SEN than those who spoke another language primarily, by 11.7% to 10.2%. Pupils from the Irish traveller and Roma communities were most likely to have SEN (30.8% and 26.9% respectively), and accordingly Irish travellers were most likely to be statemented at 4.4%. However, Indian pupils were least likely to have an EHC plan or statement, at just 1.8% compared to the national average of 2.8%.

Click below to read the findings in detail.