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Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England

September 17, 2019 8:52 PM
By National Audit Office

On the 11th September the National Audit Office (NAO) released a report looking at support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England. This report is of relevance for schools in South West Wiltshire, in particular Larkrise School in Trowbridge.

The report outlined the scale of pupils with special education needs in England. As of January 2019, 1.3 million pupils in England (14.9% of all pupils) were recorded as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). A child or young person has special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her. These children have diverse needs of different levels of severity, and they may have more than one type of need. The most commonly identified primary needs
are speech, language and communications needs (21.7% of pupils with SEND at January 2019) and moderate learning difficulties (20.4%).

• 270,800 pupils (20.6% of pupils with SEND) had legally enforceable entitlements to specific packages of support, set out in education, health and care plans
(EHC plans). These are children whom local authorities have assessed as needing the most support. Nearly half (47.9%) attended mainstream schools and almost all the others were at special schools.

• 1,041,500 pupils (79.4% of pupils with SEND) did not have EHC plans but had been identified as needing some additional support at school ('SEN support'). The vast majority of these children (91.6%) attended mainstream schools and the others were in a variety of different educational settings.

Please follow this link for an overview of the report and short explanatory video link from the National Audit Office.


Report conclusions

The National Audit Office concluded that how well pupils with SEND are supported affects their well-being, educational attainment and long-term life prospects. Some pupils with SEND are receiving high‑quality support that meets their needs, whether they attend mainstream schools or special schools. However, the NAO identified significant concerns that indicate many other pupils are not being supported effectively, and that pupils with SEND who do not have EHC plans are particularly exposed.

The system for supporting pupils with SEND is not, on current trends, financially sustainable. Many local authorities such as Wiltshire are struggling to live within their high-needs budgets and meet the demand for support. Pressures - such as incentives for mainstream schools to be less inclusive, increased demand for special school places, growing use of independent schools and reductions in per-pupil funding, make the the system less, rather than more, sustainable. The NAO recommended that the Department of Education Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in Englandneeds to act urgently to secure the improvements in quality and sustainability that are needed to achieve value for money.