Pressure from parents seeing children misdiagnosed with special needs
Children are being misdiagnosed with special educational needs due to pressure from pushy parents, according to a poll.
Some mums and dads want an official diagnosis rather than accept that their youngster has a problem in the classroom that could be dealt with by a teacher, it suggests, while others want to ensure their child has an edge in exams.
As a result, pupils with genuine needs are being overlooked, the GL Assessment survey of more than 800 teachers and school leaders says.
There are around a million children with special educational needs in England.
The survey suggests that children are being incorrectly labelled with special educational needs (SEN), with more than half (57%) of those polled saying there is a misdiagnosis among pupils.
A similar proportion (57%) thought that pressure from parents has led to some youngsters being categorised as SEN unnecessarily.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) thought that some parents who have a child with a learning issue that could be addressed by a teacher are too quick to want a medical or psychological explanation.
And just over a third (38%) agreed that some mums and dads who push for their child to be recognised as having SEN do it to help their youngster gain a competitive edge in tests and exams.
Children with disabilities or special educational needs can apply for adjustments to help them in exams, such as extra time to complete a paper.
One example in guidance published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) says: "A candidate with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) has persistent difficulty concentrating and poor working memory. Supervised rest breaks and the use of a prompter, who may need to physically show him where on a page he had been working in order to re-start his work, would be reasonable adjustments."
In another example, it says that a candidate with severe vision problems could require 50% extra time to properly access enlarged exam papers, while a child with dyslexia could need a coloured overlay, a word processor and 25% extra time.
The poll also found that the majority (72%), believe that some parents who want their child to be recognised with SEN genuinely believe their son or daughter has a problem, even if there is little evidence to support it.
Three in five (61%) said they worry that some genuine SEN children do not get as much help as they need as resources are being diverted to those who do not really need it.
Greg Watson, Chief Executive of GL Assessment, said: "Few things are more difficult for a teacher to deal with than a frustrated parent who cannot understand why their child is not doing as well at school as the parent feels they should. Parents naturally want to know why. But the fact is that a lot of issues children present are best addressed in the classroom, not in the clinic, they don't necessarily need a label and their condition may even be temporary.
"A SEN diagnosis is often about finding the one thing which is holding back a child who might otherwise do much better, rather than identifying a child with a broad difficulty in learning."
:: The YouGov poll questioned 810 UK teachers between January 19 and February 1.