More infants – and almost twice as many boys as girls – being labelled with special educational needs

The Telegraph is reporting that rising numbers of infants are being labelled with special educational needs despite a drop in diagnosis rates in older age groups nationally…

Official figures show almost one-in-seven pupils – 13.6 per cent – in state-funded nurseries have some form of learning difficulty or disability that makes it hard for them to access lessons and activities.

Numbers are up from 12.9 per cent last year and just 11.6 per cent some seven years ago.

It also emerged that boys were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with some form of special educational needs as girls, while rates were also higher among children from poor families.

The disclosure – in data published by the Department for Education – will reignite concerns that some children are still being labelled as an excuse for bad behaviour or low achievement.

It may also reflect increasing pressure on nurseries to properly prepare children for the demands of compulsory education at the age of five.

In total, 5,155 children in nurseries had special needs this year compared with 4,802 a year earlier.

A further 18,505 children aged three in all forms of education had type of special need, compared with 17,500 in 2013.

But the rise among young children runs counter to a decline in numbers for other pupils in recent years.

According to the DfE, 17.9 per cent of pupils – almost 1.5 million in total – currently have some form of special needs, but this was down from 18.8 per cent last year and a peak of 21.1 per cent in 2010.

… the data shows that particular groups of children are far more likely to be labelled. It was revealed that:

• Diagnosis peaks at the end of primary education, with 21.9 per cent of 11-year-olds having some form of special needs, compared with 19.6 per cent of pupils aged 15;

• A wide gulf still exists between the sexes, with 23.2 per cent of boys (911,900 in total) being labelled, compared with just 13 per cent (487,885) of girls;

• Pupils with special needs are twice as likely to be from poor families, with 29.1 per cent of children with SEN being registered for free school meals, compared with 13.4 per of other pupils;

• Ethnicity has a bearing on pupils’ chances of being diagnosed with special needs, with rates as high as 27.5 per cent among black Caribbean children, compared with 19.7 per cent among white British, 11.3 among Indian pupils and 11 per cent among those from Chinese backgrounds…

More at: More infants being labelled with special educational needs


Your reactions to these figures? Is it reasonable, for example, that nearly twice as many boys are diagnosed as girls, or does this suggest the system is mis-understanding boys? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Primary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove What politicians seem incapable of doing is allowing people to be individual.Everyone can’t be good at everything I’m afraid

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Every child is, in political eyes, to be “above average” in every subject which is both humanly & mathematically impossible

  3. Scott_Latty

    SchoolsImprove JayneDillon1 this due to part genetics & part environmental I think. Social media, communication, emotional needs etc

  4. nrcantor

    SchoolsImprove The differential btw sex & race implies the diagnoses are not motivated by behaviour but by perception of behaviour.

  5. Lizardtwe

    SchoolsImprove Children in non formal areas are mostly affected in that most government do not factor the needs in budgets.

  6. BlackberryCott

    SchoolsImprove Yes, and I am currently fighting a battle against a school that has WRONGLY labelled a child with SEN. Grrr

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