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Children with special educational needs up 33 per cent in Staffordshire

Staffordshire | Education | Published:

The number of children and young people classed as having special educational needs and disabilities in Staffordshire has risen by a third in the past five years, it has been revealed.

Better identification of special educational needs could be one of the reasons for the increase, county councillors have been told. But there are concerns that overall children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) do not achieve as well as other children in Staffordshire.

The number of pupils with Education, Health and Care plans (EHCPs) has also risen year on year. An EHCP is a legal document detailing a young person’s educational, health and social needs, as well as the additional support they require.

A Staffordshire SEND strategy has been produced to improve, support, and prospects for children and young people in the county. A consultation on the strategy is underway and it was also discussed at a joint meeting of the Safe and Strong Communities and Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committees on Tuesday.

A report to the committee said: “The total SEND population has increased by 33 per cent over the last five years. The number of pupils with EHCPs has also continued to rise year on year. In the 2018 SEN2 Census, Staffordshire had a total of 4,456 children with EHCPS. This has now increased to over 4,700.

“In Staffordshire, we currently see more children with special educational needs attend special schools than elsewhere in the country, and fewer attend mainstream schools. Not all children who have a special educational need or disability need to attend a special school.

“Although young pupils, who are in early education and who are in receipt of SEN support perform well, outcomes at Key Stages 1, 2 and 4 for Staffordshire students remain below the national averages.”

Committee member Councillor John Francis said: “A 33 per cent increase in five years is a massive amount of children. I can’t comprehend why that has suddenly happened – the only thing I can think of is we’re identifying pupils early.

“It’s certainly putting a lot more pressure on schools. Have we got the resources to do what we need to do?”

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Councillor Mark Sutton, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “On the whole this is the general picture across authorities, particularly across the Midlands region.

“The reasons can be numerous. The increase in EHCPs is because parents see it as the only option for them to get that official documentation.

“Since the change from statements (of SEN) to EHCPs criteria has changed a bit. Previously a young person with behavioural issues was not included. They do now.

“Exclusions from education are a lot higher than they should be and a lot of those young people have SENDs.

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“Outcomes are not where they should be – they need to be better. Our thoughts are that more can be done, particularly for young people with low to moderate learning needs.”

By Kerry Ashdown

Local Democracy Reporter

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