SEN covers more than just learning disability.
Special educational needs (SEN) can affect a child or young person’s behaviour, reading and writing, concentration levels, ability to understand things, or their physical ability. (Gov.uk 2016)
Not all children and young people with SEN have a learning disability. In 2018, 67,765 children in England with a statement of SEN or an education, health and care (EHC) plan were identified as having a primary SEN associated with learning disability. This is only 29% of all children with a statement of SEN or an EHC plan. However, at the broader level of SEN support (previously School Action and School Action Plus), 228,315 children were identified as having a primary SEN associated with learning disability (Public Health England, 2019b).
Statements of SEN and EHC Plans
Since 2010, the number of children with a learning disability receiving statements of SEN and EHC plans has decreased by 10% (Public Health England, 2019a).
The proportion of children with a learning disability who have statements/EHC plans being educated in mainstream schools has decreased from 36% to 26% (Public Health England, 2019b).
Children with special educational needs (SEN) are twice as likely as other children to be bullied regularly (IoE 2014)
Bullying is a repeated behaviour that is intended to hurt somebody either physically or emotionally.
Children and young people with a learning disability are at an increased risk of bullying. A review of research on bullying and disability found much variation in reported rates of bullying between different studies, but the majority of studies have found that children and young people with a disability – including those with a learning disability or SEN – are more likely to be bullied than those without a learning disability (Rose 2011; Fink et al. 2015 Chatzitheochari et al.2016).
A study by the Institute of Education (IoE 2014) found that even after controlling for other factors that might influence the likelihood of a child being bullied, at age 7 a child with SEN is twice as likely to be bullied as a child with no SEN.
Research has highlighted some key things that schools can do to help prevent the bullying of students with SEN or a learning disability:
- Have a school policy against bullying
- Create an inclusive school ethos and atmosphere
- Raise awareness of disability amongst all students in mainstream schools
- Support students to make and maintain friendships
- Involve parents and carers as well as students in bullying prevention schemes
- Provide training for teachers on bullying prevention
- Provide training for teachers in mainstream schools on SEN and learning disability.This information is duplicated (as per below) (Andreou et al. 2015; McLaughlin et al. 2010)
A review of international bullying programmes for all young people found that school-based bullying prevention programmes are most effective when they are intensive, long-term, and involve increased playground supervision, firm disciplinary methods, and the involvement of parents (Ttofi and Farrington 2011).
Money, children and young people
Children and young people with a disability are more likely to live in poverty than those without a disability (Emerson, 2012; PHE 2015).
Pupils with SEN are more likely to be eligible for free school meals than pupils without SEN. In January 2018, 13.6% of all pupils in state-funded schools were eligible for and claiming free school meals. However, rates were much higher for children with a learning disability:
- among children with a moderate learning disability 27.5% at SEN support and 36.2% with statements/EHC plans were eligible for and claiming free school meals
- among children with a severe learning disability 29.1% at SEN support and 34.1% with statements/EHC plans were eligible for and claiming free school meals
- and among children with profound and multiple learning disabilities 22.0% at SEN support and 28.3% with statements/EHC plans were eligible for and claiming free school meals
(Public Health England, 2019a)
Raising a child with a disability involves extra costs, with 33% of families facing extra costs of over £300 per month for their disabled child or £64,800 from birth to 18 years. Over half (56%) of families say that these extra costs are only partly covered by their disability benefits. As a result, 80% of families raising a child with a disability cannot afford to spend money on clothes, holidays or sporting, creative and leisure activities (Contact a Family, 2018)
In schools, children with a learning disability face these problems.
Discrimination against pupils
The Children’s Commissioner (2013a, 2013b) found that a small number of schools act in a discriminatory way towards pupils with SEN or a medical condition by:
- Excluding them from school
- Teaching them separately from their peers
- Banning them from extracurricular activities
- Reducing their access to the curriculum
- Singling them out for negative treatment
- Preventing them from attending school because their needs cannot be met
- Pupils with SEN are more likely to be illegally excluded than their peers with no SEN
- (Children’s Commissioner 2013a, 2013b).
Illegal exclusion from classroom
Children with SEN may be sent home for minor incidents, without notice, and without this being recorded as an exclusion. Parents or carers are often unaware that this is illegal (Children’s Commissioner 2013a, 2013b).
2.7% of schools have sent home pupils with statements of SEN because their classroom support, carer or teaching assistant was unavailable
This is a form of illegal exclusion, however 39% of a representative sample of 1000 school teachers in England said they did not know whether it was legal to send children with a statement of SEN home when their carer or teaching assistant was unavailable. For more information about exclusions and the law, please see the Children’s Commissioner’s Report on Illegal Exclusions (Children’s Commissioner 2013a, 2013b).
Teacher training doesn't always prepare teachers to teach pupils with SEN
Research by the Children’s Commissioner (2013a) and the Salt Review (2010) found that training does not always adequately prepare teachers to teach pupils with SEN and that appropriate provision is not always offered. (2013a)
According to the Children’s Commissioner, best practice in terms of including SEN pupils in schools (and avoiding their exclusion) can be achieved when:
- Teachers are trained to teach children with the full range of SEN that they may encounter
- Teacher training resources on SEN, diversity and inclusion are promoted by the Department for Education (for example, online).
Children with a learning disability face challenges in all three areas – education, money and friendships.
Pupils with a learning disability or SEN tend to have fewer friends and participate in fewer social and recreational activities than their peers without a learning disability (Taheri et al., 2016).
To find out more about the friendships of children and young people with a learning disability, and the ways they might be supported, please visit our research and statistics page on friendships and socialising. For more information related to children with a learning disability about poverty, visit our research and statistics page on money and benefits.