The proportion of pupils with statements of special needs in England appears to have levelled out at around 3 per cent of the school population. But due to rising pupil numbers the total of "statemented" pupils has now passed the quarter of a million mark.
More than 95,000 new statements were issued during 1999 and a further 1,600 assessments were carried out that did not lead to statements being made.
Although the proportion of pupils with statements has levelled out, the total number of pupils on the special needs register in schools is still rising, albeit at a slower pace than in recent years. However, this year's increase takes the total number close to one-and-a-half million pupils, or nearly 18 per cent of the pupil population.
The incidence of pupils with statements is higher in the secondary sector than in primary schools. Th North-west tops the regional table, with 3.3 per cent of its pupils having statements. This compares with just 2.7 per cent in the East Midlands.
St Helens has the highest percentage of pupils with statements at 4.6 per cent, although this represents a drop from the 5 per cent recorded in the previous two years. By contrast, Nottinghamshire has just 1 per cent of pupils with statements.
Nationally, the number of children in special schools still remains just below the 100,000 mark. It has declined from slightly more than 98,000 in 1995 to around 96,000 in January of this year and represents about 1.3 per cent of the school population.
The full integration of all pupils into mainstream schools still looks a great distance away.
John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes UniversityE-mail: Int.firstname.lastname@example.org