-A A +A
Select color visibility that suits you Basic theme Dark theme Darker theme Text only

Special educational needs assessment system a ‘roll of the dice’

25 March 2021

Schools are a ‘lottery’ and have the most bearing on whether a child will be identified as having Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND) according to a new report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

The report says that the school that primary school children attend makes more difference to their chances of being identified with SEND than anything about them as an individual, their experiences or what local authority they live in, and matters an awful lot as to whether they receive SEND support at both the lower and higher levels. The system of assessment is inconsistent and not well adapted to children’s individual needs.

This is in stark contrast to school attainment, where between-school differences explain only a small minority of the differences in pupil test results.

The report also found that there is a mismatch between what schools focus on in assessing SEND needs and what local authorities focus on. Schools focus mostly on communication, language and literacy skills, but local authorities make decisions that are more aligned with personal, social and emotional development.

Academy schools are associated with depressed chances of being identified with SEND. This is not just the case for children attending academies; in local authorities with the highest proportions of academised primary schools, the chances of being identified with SEND at the higher level are just one tenth of those in local authorities with the fewest academies. This is not explained by deprivation levels, ethnic mix or a range of other factors. This is likely to indicate under-identification of children with SEND.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “We welcome this report which backs up what parents have been saying for years. It is completely unfair to children that there is such inequality of SEND provision across the country. We know that the pandemic has compounded problems for families trying to access adequate SEND support. It is vital that the Government acts on the findings of this important report.”

Read the EPI report here.