teacher 2The number of children and young people in schools with special education needs (SEN) has fallen to 1.49 million in 2014 – or 17.9% – from 1.55 million in 2013, official statistics have found.

This continues a trend going back to 2010, the figures from the Department for Education (DfE) have revealed. In 2010, 21.1% of pupils had SEN.

The percentage of pupils in schools in England who have statements of SEN remained at 2.8% – as it has done since 2007 – with 232,190 children and young people having one in 2014. 

In addition, the percentage of pupils with SEN without statements fell for the fourth year in a row, from 18.3% in 2010 to 15.1% in 2014.

Boys are more likely to have SEN than girls; 19.2% of boys have SEN without statements compared to 11.4% for girls. Meanwhile, 4% of boys have statements of SEN compared to 1.6% of girls. 

Pupils with SEN are currently categorised as follows:

School Action – extra or different help is given from that provided as part of the school’s usual curriculum

School Action Plus – the class teacher and SEN coordinator receive advice or support from outside specialists, such as a specialist teacher, an educational psychologist, a speech or language therapist or other health professionals

Statement – pupil has a statement of SEN when a formal assessment has been made. A document is in place that sets out the child’s needs and the extra help they should receive.

The continued decline in the number of children with SEN could be as the result of better identification of those children who have SEN and those who do not, according to the DfE release. It added that this may have been as a consequence of the 2010 Ofsted Special Educational Needs and Disability review which found that a quarter of all children identified with SEN, and half of the children at School Action, did not have SEN.

Frequency of need

In state-funded primary schools, the three most frequent types of primary SEN need were: speech, language and communication needs with 31.6%; moderate learning difficulty with 19.1% and behaviour, emotional and social difficulties with 18.4%.

Meanwhile, in state-funded secondary schools, behaviour, emotional and social difficulties was the most frequent type of need at 26.7%. This was followed by moderate learning difficulty at 20.3% and and specific learning difficulty at 15.6%.

In special schools, the three most frequent types of primary need were: severe learning difficulty (24.8%), followed by autistic spectrum disorder (22.5%) and moderate learning difficulty (17.2%).