Skip to main content

Committee to examine disparities for pupils with SEND

6 March 2020

As of January 2019, 1.3 million pupils in England – almost one in six of all pupils – were recorded as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Every school in England has a duty to support children who have these needs: the Public Accounts Committee is looking at whether schools have enough money in their budgets to do so, and whether it is used effectively.

The Committee will explore why almost twice as many boys as girls are assessed for SEND – 20.2% of boys aged 5 to 17 in state-funded schools at January 2019, compared with 10.7% of girls – and disparities between ethnic groups and regions.

Key facts:

  • 2.6% real-terms reduction in funding for each pupil with high needs between 2013-14 and 2017-18
  • 32.4% real-terms increase in local authorities' spending on independent special schools between 2013-14 and 2017-18
  • 44.9% proportion of permanent exclusions involving children with SEND in 2017/18
  • 50.0% proportion of inspected local authority areas that Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission had assessed as underperforming at July 2019
  • 81.3% proportion of local authorities that overspent their high-needs budget in 2017-18

A child or young person has special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for them. There are two types of SEND support: about 1 in 5 students have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC) and the rest have some additional SEN support that is less extensive than an EHC plan.

In September 2014 the government substantially changed the system for supporting children and young people with SEND. The aims of the reforms were for: children's needs to be identified earlier; families to be more involved in decisions affecting them; education, health and social care services to be better integrated; and support to remain in place up to the age of 25 where appropriate.

The NAO found that, since 2014, the number of children with the greatest needs has been growing and that more of them now have an EHC plan. However, the NAO has also found that Government funding has not been keeping pace with this increase. This means that councils are regularly overspending their budgets for supporting SEND pupils and this makes the system unsustainable.

It  also found that the Government has not been clear on what it wants the outcomes to be of SEND intervention and so it is difficult to say if it is meeting its goals. The Government also failed to work out how much the 2014 reforms would cost the public purse.

Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities


Monday 9 March 2020, Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House

At 4pm

  • Jonathan Slater - Permanent Secretary at Department for Education
  • Suzanne Lunn - Deputy Director, Special Educational Needs and Disability Division at Department for Education
  • Andre Imich - SEN and Disability Professional Adviser, at Department for Education

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright