Big drop in mainstream school SEND provision

Number of SEND units in mainstream secondaries down by 14 per cent in a year

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The number of mainstream schools with additional provision for children with special educational needs has dropped by 10 per cent between 2017 and 2018, official figures reveal.

The Department for Education statistics show that the number of primary and secondary schools with SEND units or "resourced provision" dropped from 3,489 in January 2017 to 3,157 in January 2018.

A SEND unit is special provision within a mainstream school where children with SEND are taught mainly within separate classes.

Resourced provision is where a mainstream school has places reserved for pupils with a specific type of SEND, who are taught mainly within mainstream classes but require a base and some specialist facilities.

The statistics show a drop of 332 schools with provision in either category between 2017 and 2018. In secondaries that breaks down to 90 (14 per cent) fewer SEND units and 61 (8 per cent) fewer schools with resourced provision.

Among primaries, there are 42 (5 per cent) fewer SEN units and 139 (11 per cent) fewer schools with resourced provision.

Rob Webster, associate professor at the UCL Institute of Education's Centre for Inclusive Education, said: "These bases [SEND units and resourced provision] could be a big part of provision for pupils with SEND going forward.

"I think they are useful for the system – we can't have all pupils with SEND in special schools and mainstream schools struggle, so to see these numbers falling is a bit of a concern. 

"We should be looking at the great bases and asking 'what are the active ingredients of an effective provision?' Obviously, there is some kind of issue in the system which means they are perhaps not being supported because the numbers are dropping."

Both types of provision are usually for pupils with statements or education, health and care (EHC) plans and receive funding of £10,000 per place plus usually top-up funding to meet the needs of individual pupils. But SEND units also sometimes accommodate pupils who are registered at other schools on a part-time basis.

The percentage of schools with SEND units has now dropped from 7.5 per to 6.9 per cent and the percentage of schools with resourced provision has fallen from 9.7 per to 8.7 per cent.

The number of SEND units grew from 1,284 in 2014 to 1,524 last year and has now dropped to 1,392.

The number of schools with resourced provision peaked at 2,021 in 2015 and has been falling since. There are now 1,765 schools with resourced provision.

The fall comes as the statistics also revealed a further rise in the number of children with SEND – from 14.4 per cent of all pupils to 14.6 per cent.

There has also been a rise in the proportion of pupils with statements or EHC plans attending special schools – from 40.5 per cent in 2014 to 44.2 per cent of pupils this year.

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