Special needs then and now

24th October 1997 at 01:00
In January 1997 * 1.5 million children (18 per cent) had some form of special need.

* 233,000 children (2.8 per cent) had a statement of special need (161, 000 in 1992).

* 58 per cent of children with statements were taught in mainstream schools compared to 44 per cent in 1992.

* Almost all children with special needs and without statements are taught in mainstream schools.

* Around Pounds 2.5 billion is spent each year on special needs provision.

(source - DFEE)

1978 Warnock Report defined concept of special educational needs; suggested 20 per cent of children had an SEN, with 2 per cent needing statements; established principle of mainstream inclusion where possible.

1981 Education Act (based on Warnock): introduced statements with right of appeal to local authority, but process criticised as too long, bureaucratic and inefficient. SEN provision across country seen as sporadic; LEAs complain of lack of resources and Government support.

1988 Education Reform Act. National curriculum and local management of schools put further pressure on SEN provision; league tables blamed for rising exclusions, linked to increase in children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

1993 Education Act attempted to streamline and address effects of 1988 reforms. New six-month limit on statement process; independent appeal tribunal created; SEN co-ordinator in every school. Five levels of SEN defined: levels 1-3 in mainstream; level 4 under assessment for statement; level 5 child with statement. Changes supported in principle, but co-ordinators complained of lack of support and resources. Steep rise in numbers of statements and appeals.

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