Number of special educational needs children rises for first time since 2010

Updated: 

More than 1.2 million schoolchildren - around one in seven - have a special educational need, official figures show.

The number of youngsters in England with a special need (SEN) has risen for the first time in seven years, according to Department for Education (DfE) statistics.

Boys are more likely to have an SEN than girls, and the most common is moderate learning difficulties.

The latest statistics show that, as of January this year, around 1.24 million pupils had an SEN, compared with around 1.23 million at the same point in 2016.

This is the first annual increase since 2010, the figures show.

It means that around 14.4% of schoolchildren in England - about one in seven - have a special need. This proportion has remained stable, government statisticians said.

Of those with an SEN, the vast majority are on SEN support, the data shows, while 242,185 youngsters have a specific SEN statement or Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. 

An EHC plan is a legal document setting out a child or young person's needs.

Moderate learning difficulty is the most common type of need overall, with more than a fifth (22.7%) of those with an SEN having this type of need.

The figures also show that special educational needs are more common in boys, with 14.6% on SEN support compared with 8.1% of girls. 

In addition, 4% of boys have an SEN statement or EHC plan compared with 1.6% of girls.

SEN support is most common among 10-year-olds, the data shows, while statements and EHC plans are most common at the age of 15.

Children's Minister Robert Goodwill said: "Every child, regardless of their circumstances, should have access to the best education and opportunities as their peers so I am determined that we deliver the ambition of our reforms for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

"These were the biggest in a generation and made fundamental changes to the system to put families at the heart of the process."

Alison Ryan, senior policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "Today's figures, on the provision for children and young people with special education needs and disability, raise difficult questions for the Government.

"With 15,000 more pupils identified with SEN than last year, inadequate school funding and savage cuts to local authority support services it is increasingly impossible for many schools to provide suitable learning environments and support for the most vulnerable pupils.

"This means the needs of some children are not being formally identified and others are not getting crucial support."