Fall In Number Of Special Needs Children In Schools

The number of children with special needs in English schools has dropped slightly, according to new government figures. Over half (57.2%) of state school pupils at all levels have special educational needs, down by 1.5 percentage points from 2006.

Special educational needs are broadly defined as any child needing extra help in a range of areas including schoolwork, socialising or behaviour. A school usually formally has to agree that a child has special needs.

In January this year, 229,100 (2.8%) pupils across all schools in England had special educational needs statements, a slight fall compared with 2006. A statement is written if the child is assessed by the local authority as needing help beyond the capabilities of the school, and is reviewed annually.

The proportion of pupils with special needs statements placed in state special schools rose by 1.1 percentage points to 36% and in independent schools by 0.4 percentage points to 3.9%. But there were more than 1.3 million pupils with special needs who did not have official statements in 2007, representing 16.4% of pupils across all schools, the figures showed. This is an increase from 15.7% a year earlier.

There are more special needs pupils without statements in primary schools (17.7%) than secondary schools (16.2%). Of the 23,800 children assessed for special needs during 2006, 22,600 (95%) were issued with a statement for the first time, maintaining a steady downward trend.

Almost 8% of them were placed in paid-for units in mainstream state schools, nearly 62% were placed in state schools, almost 24% in special schools, almost 3% in registered early years education settings and around 4% elsewhere.

Compared with 2006, this shows an increasing proportion of children with new special needs statements (up 3%) being educated in special schools with a corresponding fall in the proportion educated in state mainstream schools (down 2%) or in units in state mainstream schools (down 1%).

In primary and secondary schools boys are more likely to have special needs, with or without a statement, than girls. In January 2007, 95,000 boys in primary and secondary schools had statements of SEN – around one in every 40 boys – compared with 35,800 girls, around one in every 100.