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Exodus of SEND pupils from mainstream into special schools sees inclusion on the wane

Proportion of pupils with SEND in special schools is at its highest rate since 2007

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Proportion of pupils with SEND in special schools is at its highest rate since 2007

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are increasingly moving their children out of mainstream schools, new analysis released by Ofsted reveals.

The proportion of children with statements of SEND or an education, health and care plan (EHCP) in special schools is at its highest level since 2007, according to figures in the watchdog’s annual report.

The document, published this morning, also warns that local authorities need to do more to ensure that the progress and safety of pupils with SEND statements or EHCPs is being monitored when they are moved out of maintained schools or their own area.

Ofsted has highlighted government figures showing that 43 per cent of children with EHCPs or statements are now in special schools, up from 36 per cent in 2007.

The proportion of these pupils in mainstream independent schools has also risen from just under 4 per cent in 2009 to over 6 per cent in 2016.

The exodus has been particularly evident in secondary education, the report notes. It says that evidence from Ofsted inspections suggests that the increase in special school placements may relate to parents’ concerns that their child would not get the help they needed in mainstream schools.

“Parents have raised concerns about the ability of mainstream schools to deliver specialist support, such as therapy, which is readily available in special schools,” the report says. “Some parents do not feel that aspirations are high enough or that the curriculum in mainstream schools is broad enough to cater for their child’s current strengths and future needs.”

Ofsted states in its report this week that it has found schools are happy to include pupils with SEND.

Earlier this year, the National Children’s Bureau raised concerns that academies were reluctant to take children with SEND unless they had an EHCP in place.

This week’s Ofsted report reveals that some areas have not established systems to check how well all pupils with SEND are doing. Reporting on the first results of a new type of inspection that looks at how effectively education, health and social services work together, the watchdog said there was “careful oversight” of pupils with statements or EHCPs in maintained schools in most areas.

But services were “less informed about these pupils’ progress or indeed their safety in independent schools or when they are placed out of the area”.

This is an edited version of an article in the 2 December edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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