Lawyers Call For More To Be Done To Assist SEN Pupils with ‘Postcode Lottery’ System
Expert education lawyers are calling for more to be done to help children with special educational needs after it was revealed nearly 1.5 million pupils need additional support.
The Government has published its annual Special Educational Needs in England report which combines census data from state, independent and hospital schools on pupils with SEN needs for the 2022-23 academic year.
The report reveals there are now 1.5 million SEN pupils in England, an increase of over 87,000 from the previous year. Key metrics have also risen in line with the headline figure, with 389,171 pupils having an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), up 9.5 per cent on 2022 figures.
In total, 1,183,384 children in England receive SEN support - with or without an EHCP - up 4.7 per cent from 2022. The latest statistics point to a rising trend since 2016, with autism the most common type of need for an EHCP. Meanwhile, those receiving SEN support receive help with speech, language and other communication needs.
Specialist education law lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have supported parents and pupils in several SEN cases across the country in recent years, where parents have been forced to seek legal advice to secure support for their children. This has included fighting proposed changes in services and bringing a legal challenge against a previous government over levels of funding for SEN.
The report follows Government plans announced in March 2023 to reform support for SEN children, aiming to improve a ‘postcode lottery’ system; with a commitment to earlier diagnosis and 33 more special free schools.
Expert Opinion“The issue of funding and provision for special educational needs is huge and is something that we’ve been contacted about on many occasions. Our education team at Irwin Mitchell is overflowing with new enquiries from anxious parents where the system has failed them.
“The First Tier SEND tribunal has reported ever increasing numbers of parents bringing SEND tribunal appeals to secure their children’s SEN needs and provision. All children are legally entitled to an education that is appropriate to their needs, promotes high standards and the fulfilment of their potential. This should enable them to:
• Achieve their best
• Become confident individuals living fulfilling lives, and
• Make a successful transition into adulthood, whether into employment, further or higher education or training
"These latest figures suggest that the Government will need to increase support to ensure the statutory rights of pupils can be provided across England.
“Government proposals outlined in March 2023 were welcome, but new schools will take years to build, while the number of SEN units and resourced provision has remained static. Schools with SEN units actually declined slightly, from 377 in 2022 to 373 in 2023.
“We have noticed that special schools and units are already massively over-subscribed. Mainstream schools are being pushed to take more and more complex children whose needs cannot be met by them. We are seeing a concerning increase in school exclusion enquiries for children with SEND.
“I had one client recently whose daughter was only receiving two hours of education per day in the school library with a tutor, but no therapy and no peers in isolation. She wasn’t even on roll there. There are simply not enough places to go around and urgent action is required to address this ever widening gap in schools’ SEND provision.
“The Local Government Association, education unions and charities have expressed fears that government plans do not go far enough and these numbers will do nothing to soothe concerns.
“There’s a real risk that SEN children will continue to face difficulties securing help and parents will spend time they should have with their families, fighting to secure the educational support their children are legally entitled to.” Esther Salter - Associate Solicitor