Parents of children with learning disabilities have been let down by local councils in Cheshire, St Helens, Bedfordshire and Somerset, with 70 percent of kids with special educational needs denied places at secondary schools that are about to start their new terms.

At least 2,421 special needs children due to start secondary school in September were not given education plans before a February legal deadline and the situation remains bleak for the majority.

Cheshire East, St Helens, Central Bedfordshire and Somerset councils all failed to provide school plans to 70 percent of children by the deadline, along with Sunderland's local authority, according to data released under freedom of information laws published in today’s Independent

‘One in five shut out of school’

As many as one in five children with special needs in England stand to be denied access to a secondary education.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, all children must be transferred onto Education and Health Care Plans by 1 April 2018.

Despite the legal obligation, the breakthrough in equal access looks unlikely as challenging discrimination can be expensive without public funding.

Learning Disability Today has contacted the five councils alleged to have the highest rates of children with learning disabilities shut out of secondary school for comment.

A spokesperson for Together for Children said that it had now secured places for all children with care and education plans that come under the responsibility of Sunderland City Council.

A spokesperson for St Helen's Council said: “The local authority was aware that the Education and Health Care Plans would not be completed by the deadline, however all parents have been fully informed and consulted on their preference throughout the process."

“The vast majority of children with Education and Health Care Plans are in specialist placements where pupils remain at the same school and so do not transfer from one school setting to another during their transition, and discussions with parents determined that they would remain in these to ensure continuity of education. This was formally confirmed in a letter to parents and then reiterated in their Plans."

“18 out of 21 families were offered their first choice of school, with parents happy with the outcomes. The three remaining families appealed and will be heard by the SEN tribunal in September, with a view to finalising their placements early in the school term.”