Special needs children more likely to be from low-income families

Pupils from low-income families are more than twice as likely to be identified as having special educational needs than their better-off classmates, according to a new report

Children from such families are more likely to be born with inherited special needs and disabilities (SEND) and are more likely to develop them in childhood, it said.

The report by education thinktank LKMco also detailed 10 reasons why pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are not “achieving their potential”.

It includes high exclusion rates for SEND pupils, a mixed quality of SEND provision among schools and special schools struggling to recruit teachers.

One of the report’s recommendations is that regional schools commissioners should take responsibility for rooting out schools providing poor special educational needs provision.

Bart Shaw, lead author and an associate at LKMco, has called for action to “push children with SEND’s needs up the agenda”.

He said: “We have set out clear, concrete steps that policy makers and practitioners could take to make a meaningful difference to these young people’s lives. Urgent action now needs to be taken to implement our recommendations.”

The report, Special Educational Needs and their links to poverty, cites government statistics showing that 13 per cent of those pupils not on free school meals have special educational needs. But among pupils who are eligible for free school meals, the proportion with SEND rises to over a quarter (29 per cent).

The report recommends that:

  • SEND is given the same level of priority for action by government as tackling the socio-economic disadvantage.
  • School admissions should be reviewed to assess whether all schools provide fair access for pupils with SEND.
  • Opportunities to work in special schools should be promoted.
  • Early years settings have the funding needed to employ a special educational needs co-ordinator.

Helen Barnard, head of analysis at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which published the report, added: “We have seen a really welcome focus from the government and schools on closing the attainment gap between richer and poorer children.

“This research shows that we need to match this with a commitment to ensure that those with SEND are able to achieve positive outcomes and more into adulthood with the skills and qualifications they need.”

The Department for Education recently announced an £80 million funding boost for SEND and said their reforms mean the needs of those pupils are addressed in one coherent plan for the first time.

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