NEW UK Government figures reveal that over 1.5 million pupils in England have special educational needs (SEN). This is an increase of 87,000 from 2022. Both the number of pupils with an education, health and care (EHC) plan, and the number of pupils with SEN support have increased.

An EHC plan is for children and young people who need more support than is available through special educational needs support. The most common type of need for those children with an EHC plan is autistic spectrum disorder, and for those with SEN support it is speech, language and communication needs.

Commenting on the data, released on 22 June, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union said: “Data released today shows continued increases in the number of children and young people with EHC plans and on SEN support in schools. This further highlights the failure of the education system to promote inclusion.

“The number of pupils with an EHC plan rose by almost 10 per cent in the past year and has risen by almost two-thirds in total since 2016. One in 23 pupils now has an EHC plan, and one in eight pupils is on SEN support, for example for speech, language and communication needs. Pupils with SEN are much more likely to be from disadvantaged backgrounds, as measured by eligibility for free school meals.

“The government’s SEND and Alternative Improvement Plan aims to increase inclusion. It is clear, however, that the current pressures of a mastery curriculum and high stakes testing mean that more SEND young people require additional support to manage; increasing numbers are unable to do so and fall out of the system completely.

“Further raising the pressures on students from a failed model will lead only to these figures, and consequently the funding needed for SEND, increasing year on year. To reduce the need for EHC plans and improve the support that schools can provide, the government need a sharp change of direction. This should involve timely access to specialist provision; a more flexible curriculum which includes a broad range of arts based and vocational options; a serious approach to the recruitment and retention crisis of both teachers and support staff and a broad qualifications offer that enables every young person to be successful.”

* The new statistics are available here.

* Sources: Department for Education  and National Education Union