Four out of five children taken into care in England during their school years required support for special educational needs (SEN) at some point between the ages of five and 16, according to research.
The study, which examined data on almost half a million children who began school in September 2005, found that of the 6,240 children who entered the care system during their school years, 83% required additional SEN support.
Researchers from UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health said they were surprised by the scale of special educational need among children in care, adding: “The data shows that a much higher proportion of children who have entered care received in-school prodvision for SEN than would appear to be the case from official annual figures.”
Of those in care and requiring SEN provision, almost a quarter received an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) – previously known as a statement – which is a legal document requiring a local authority to provide agreed additional support and is generally for the most high-need pupils.
Researchers also found that need for additional provision among children not in care was also comparatively high at 37%. Of the 57,200 children who came into contact with social services but were defined as in need rather than in care, 65% required additional provision for SEN.
Last year’s government data – based on just one year of schooling – showed fewer than 15% of all pupils in England received provision for special educational needs and 3.1% had an EHCP.
The study, which is published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, comes at a time of continuing concern about cuts to SEN provision. The government has promised to carry out a full review of the SEN system and has invested an additional £780m to help with immediate need, but campaigners say it is not enough and would like to see more long-term strategic action.
The report’s lead author, Matthew Jay, said: “These findings highlight just how important provision for special educational needs is for many thousands of children. Special educational needs provision affects a large segment of the population – for some groups, the large majority.
“Special educational needs can affect a child’s ability to learn and develop and they may struggle with their reading and writing, making friends and concentrating. This type of support can be very important for vulnerable children in contact with social care services.”
Fellow author Ruth Gilbert added: “We know there are strong links between special educational needs, the need for social care support and health but we do not know whether changes in SEN provision in past years have impacted on the NHS or increases in social care referrals.”