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Worrying clusters of statements

THE number of pupils with special educational needs statements appears to vary significantly around the country. A recent parliamentary written answer to a question put by Conservative MP Theresa May revealed a wide range in the percentage of pupils with statements.

In two local authorities, Doncaster and St Helens, more than 5 per cent of pupils have statements. This compares with 1.2 per cent in Nottinghamshire. Most LEAs have statement levels of between 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent.

Although many authorities with higher rates of statementing are small urban authorities, there are some counties, such as Cornwall, Cumbria and Lancashire, in the top 10. Of authorities with rates of statementing under 2 per cent, most, again, are small urban authorities or London boroughs. Rutland and Nottinghamshire are the two exceptions.

Adjacent authorities appear to have widely differing rates of statementing. Middlesbrough has 3.2 per cent of its pupils with statements whereas Redcar has only 2.1 per cent. Similarly, in Rochdale it is 2.3 per cent whereas Wigan's percentage is 4.1 per cent.

Some differences may be accounted for by the location of special schools and units whose facilities may be used by a number of local education authorities. But this is unlikely to account for all the differences.

There is some evidence from Office for Standards in Education reports that few children with statements, even for physical problems, are found in either selective schools or some heavily oversubscribed schools. There is a danger that, even after disregarding those children in units attached to secondary schools, pupils with statements are disproportionately clustered in certain schools.

Whether or not children with special needs are statemented, more needs to be achieved in training support staff. It is also likely that, despite the actions of the Teacher Training Agency, the preparation for teaching these pupils still forms only a small part of many ITT courses, particularly primary PGCE courses. There is also concern about devolving the funding for INSET training of special needs teachers.

Pupils attending schools in the authority's area who had statements, expressed as a percentage of the total number of pupils in such schools (January 1998)

Number of LEAs

Less than 2% 11

2-2.49% 26

2.50-2.99% 41

3-3.49% 34

3.50-3.99% 12

4+% 8

SOURCE-Parliamentary written question, November 10 1998

John Howson is a fellow of Oxford Brookes University and runs an education research company. e-mail:

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