The number of pupils in English schools who have special educational needs has fallen for the second year in a row, figures reveal.
But pupils with SEN continue to face a postcode lottery which determines the level of support they receive. Children in some areas are up to 10 times more likely to be given a statement of need entitling them to extra help.
One in six pupils is now identified as having SEN compared with more than one in five two years ago. New rules have reduced the number who are categorised as having special needs but who do not have statements.
The number of SEN pupils without statements fell from 1,560,000 in 2001 when the new code of practice was introduced to 1,170,000. The proportion of pupils with statements remained steady at about 3 per cent.
The government statistics also reveal differences in the help offered to children in different areas. Only 1.8 per cent of pupils in Oldham, Greater Manchester, have statements compared to 3.2 per cent in nearby Rochdale. In the South-west, Torbay awards statements to 4.1 per cent of pupils compared to Bournemouth's 1.7 per cent.
tes extra special needs newsletter 0870 4448627 Statistics of Education: Special Educational Needs in England 2003, www.dfes.gov.uk