30th October 2009 at 00:00
Girls with SEN statements who achieved the expected level at key stage 4

Are we failing some of the most disadvantaged children in our schools? I make no apologies for coming back to special educational needs (SEN) so soon.

This is because having a statement of special needs seems to be an almost certain passport to a poor outcome at key stage 4, at least as measured by expected performance.

I hesitate to use the word failure, as that would condemn the excellent work undertaken by many teachers working with these severely challenged young people. But when more than 60 per cent of girls with no special needs achieved the expected level, but only 1.9 per cent of girls with a statement did, it is worth exploring.

Of course, because relatively few girls compared with boys receive a statement, it may be that those who do are so severely challenged that any educational outcome can be recorded as a success.

Indeed, the fact that nearly 30 per cent of girls with a visual impairment and approaching 20 per cent of those with a hearing impairment achieved the expected outcome is a tribute to those working in these areas.

That less than 5 per cent of girls with statements for behaviour, emotional and social difficulties did so may reflect more on the curriculum than on the teachers.

If statistics are to be believed, being black, female, on free school meals and with a statement must be a real challenge. It makes you wonder, if they are also in the looked-after sector, how much better are their education chances than they were a century ago?

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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