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 had 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 had a primary SEN associated with learning disability (Public Health England, 2019b).
Most children with special educational needs (SEN) go to mainstream schools, with less than 10% attending special schools in the UK:
- In England in 2018, 9.3% of pupils with SEN attended special schools (Department for Education, 2018).
- In Northern Ireland in 2018/19, that figure was 7.8%. (DENI 2019)
- In Wales in 2017/18, that figure was 4.6%. (StatsWales 2018)
- In Scotland in 2018, 3.5% of pupils with additional support needs attended special schools. (Scottish Government 2018)
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.
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.
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 (Contact a Family, 2018).
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.