More schoolchildren diagnosed with special needs
Official figures show that the number of children diagnosed with special needs has risen by 10% over the last five years, leading to concerns that some schools may be playing the system to disguise poor exam results.
According to a report published by the Department for Education, boys and children from the poorest backgrounds are significantly more likely to be classified than other pupils as suffering behavioural problems, learning and communication difficulties or physical disabilities.
The study also underlined the link between special needs and poor examination results.
According to data, pupils without special needs are more than three times as likely to reach the standard expected for their age at the end of secondary school than classed as having behavioural and learning problems.
Just 20 per cent of children with special needs leave school with five decent GCSEs, including the key subjects of English and maths, compared with 66 per cent of their classmates.
However, Ofsted has raised concerns that many pupils with special needs are simply underachieving because expectations made of them are too low. According to inspectors, as many as half of children with certain categories of problems are wrongly labelled to disguise poor teaching.
The Government has now proposed a sweeping overhaul of the system in England, including earlier checks to identify those with the greatest difficulties in pre-school and more freedom for parents to choose services best suited to their children’s needs.
Sarah Teather, the Children’s Minister, said: “The attainment gap between pupils with special educational needs and their peers is still far too wide.”
In all, some 1.67million children now have special educational needs according to the latest DfE report, with the vast majority educated in mainstream schools.
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