Nearly one in four boys at state school has special needs, statistics show

Nearly one in four state school boys is classed as having special educational needs, almost double the number of girls, according to a report in the Telegraph…

Overall, almost one in five pupils across England – in both state and private schools – has some type of special educational need (SEN), accounting for about 1.5 million children.

However, campaigners have claimed that the high figures are down to poor teaching and children are being wrongly labelled by schools attempting to mask their failures.

Those identified as having SEN include children with speech and language needs, learning difficulties, behaviour issues, visual, hearing or multi-sensory impairments, physical disabilities or a form of autism.

Karen Ivens, vice chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said that the problems start in primary school, where teachers fail to control their classes and children fail to learn, leading them to be classed as having special needs.

“There is also a strong tendency toward labelling children, don’t forget there is money attached to it,” she said. “And it means that they have more excuses for under achievement when Ofsted come along.

“The answer is to teach them in a proper, structured way, where teachers can pick out the children who truly need extra help.”

A 2010 report by Ofsted claimed that 457,000 children had been being wrongly labelled special needs in order to disguise poor teaching.

A breakdown of the data, published by the Department for Education (DfE) yesterday, shows that in state primary, secondary and special schools, nearly a quarter, 24.3 per cent, of boys were judged to have special needs, compared with around one in seven, 13.7 per cent, of girls.

The number, a total of 18.7% of pupils, has dropped since last year when about 1.6 million pupils fell into an SEN category.

Jean Gross, a former government adviser on children with speech, language and communication needs, also believes that too many children are being labelled, but argues that the teachers believe it the best way to get them extra help.

“It is a way of handing them over to sort them out, but we need to put the responsibility for all children back to the teachers,” she said.

More at:  Nearly one in four boys at state school has special needs, statistics show

Are too many children – especially boys – being classed as having special needs, or is it the right thing to do and beneficial for them in the long term? Please let us know your thoughts on this in the comments or via Twitter… 

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Categories: Policy and Teaching.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove All teachers’ fault obviously; parents often insist upon a “label” for their children and schools have little choice

    • rrunsworth

      andylutwyche SchoolsImprove That’s unfair Andy, there are some poor teachers/schs just like there are irresponsible parents

        • rrunsworth

          andylutwyche SchoolsImprove ‘Teachers get blamed’ – degree of headline grabbing media hype to blame for this.

        • andylutwyche

          rrunsworth SchoolsImprove Media have a lot to answer for. If the headlines blamed their readers for incompetence they wouldn’t sell papers

        • rrunsworth

          andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Most aren’t worth buying anyway! 🙁 Everyone too defensive, need to accept good/poor in all groups of people

  2. kimbiddulph

    SchoolsImprove probably over-labelling but not maliciously or lazily as accused in that article. Recent Camden cpuncil project on it.

  3. CatalystPsych

    SchoolsImprove Perhaps need to distinguish between ‘has SEN’ and ‘needs extra help’. The latter is often reason for identifying children.

    • rrunsworth

      CatalystPsych SchoolsImprove I agree, some prob just need extra help, shld b identified b4 they start primary sch

  4. frdragonspouse

    SchoolsImprove If it’s 1 in 5 across the board, 1 in 4 in state schools seems about right – higher deprivation levels in state sector.

    • MumForAutism

      frdragonspouse SchoolsImprove – my question is not what it says but why this article has appeared. With #SEN reforms around the corner..

    • MumForAutism

      frdragonspouse SchoolsImprove .. is the government trying to justify a move to reducing numbers of children with SEN?

      • frdragonspouse

        MumForAutism SchoolsImprove Same strategy with disability benefits. Take away the support and then pretend the ‘problem’ doesn’t exist!

        • MumForAutism

          frdragonspouse SchoolsImprove – a similar article is in the Telegraph; am suspicious of the motivations behind it. #SEN #politics

  5. frdragonspouse

    SchoolsImprove Or too many wealthy parents are hiding their ‘difficult’ children in fee-paying schools! 😉

  6. rrunsworth

    SchoolsImprove I do think there is some mislabelling as sometimes this is down to poor parenting, that’s when it’s unfair on teachers

  7. Pamelafeeney75L

    SchoolsImprove There is a greater number of children in mainstream that should be in special schools. This maybe down to parents not 1/2

  8. Pamelafeeney75L

    SchoolsImprove accepting their child has needs and specialist teaching. There is still a stigma around special needs schs. Teachers can’t

  9. Pamelafeeney75L

    SchoolsImprove Fragile X is the most common known cause of inherited learn disability. The gene that causes Fragile X is carried on the

  10. bristol_teacher

    g56g Infuriating! To say there’s £ attached & that’s why we label! What £?! Threshold for extra funding is so high!

    • g56g

      bristol_teacher it is all part of the talk down state education agenda. It is so hard to counter, the press seem disinterested in evidence.

  11. Alexandarshippo

    SchoolsImprove christoclifford Depends on need. If child with epilepsy needs extra time in written exam bcoz of absence szs it’s no prob.

  12. GorillaWitch

    .g56g Everything is the fault of state schools. The economy, the state of the NHS, immigration, unemployment… Get with the programme.

  13. scatty167

    SchoolsImprove erm surely that’s a problem.I hav 2 boys, 1 has a diagnosis & statement,the other is on SA+ no diagnosis.

  14. technologytotea

    SchoolsImprove is Karen Ivens a teacher? Boys are more likely to be dyslexic but maybe the curriculum is at fault or how it is delivered?

  15. M_Coneley

    SchoolsImprove u have to wonder if increasing no’s of kids with SEN has any connection (even partially) to increasing class sizes

  16. StewedCat

    Teachers unable to discipline classes? We have a nation of parents who want strong discipline for everyone’s child except for their own, for whom endless mitigating circumstances and excuses (including SEN) must be made. We also have a system that shows no understanding of educational and intellectual diversity; all must achieve what was once the average level, all must know what a subordinate clause is at age 11 and know their tables by age 9 (I went to grammar school and was gone 30 before I’d full confidence in my 8s). No regard can be made for either nature or nurture which in the brave new thinking apparently have no bearing on what children can do. As a free school meal graduate I am all for narrowing the gap but the expectation that if only my teachers worked harder I could so as well as more affluent and well connected peers is a cruel mythology. When the government notion of ‘expected’ is so very narrow, of course more people fall outside it and SEN goes up. If we had greater acceptance of the natural diversity of children and we had an ‘average’ rather than minimum then SEN would go down . . . .and the children? Well they’d be no different but they might be a lot happier and many would feel less of a failure.

    • fiona_peters1

      @tutorhouse SchoolsImprove No and in my humble opinion teachers need (and would appreciate) more focus on SEN in their initial training.

  17. annietrev

    SchoolsImprove Only any gd if statementing done by LA diff to those who fund. Need proper system. Too hard 4 many families #abetterdeal

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