Figures reveal fewer SEN children are attending mainstream schools in Sheffield despite introduction of legal protections
Figures have revealed that the number of children with special educational needs (SEN) attending mainstream schools in Sheffield has fallen, despite new legal protections being in place.
Mainstream schools in England are now the least inclusive in the UK, analysis by the JPIMedia data unit shows.
Now, across the nation only about one in seven children in mainstream primaries and one in eight children in mainstream secondaries have special needs.
In Sheffield, the number of SEN children in mainstream primary education went from 9,500 in 2012 to 7,782 in 2019, representing a drop of around 20 per cent, and in secondary education this fell from 7,175 to 4,176 in the same period.
Meanwhile, statistics also revealed the number attending special schools has risen by nearly a third, despite the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014, which states that children with SEN should usually be given a place in mainstream classes.
Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills and Sheffield City Council said the rise was due to a number of factors, including ‘significant’ financial pressures on mainstream schools.
She said: “Along with many other local authorities in the country, we have seen a significant rise in the number of children with special educational needs (SEN) since the implementation of the children and families act in 2014.
“With a growing local population, a more rigid academic school curriculum and significant financial pressures on mainstream schools and local authority budgets, this has led to a higher number of families and schools requesting a move to specialist provision, as the solution to meeting their child’s needs.
“We are reviewing all of our specialist provision as well as how we support mainstream schools to ensure that individual needs of children in the city are met early and as close to home as possible.”
She added: “The only way we are going to be able to address these growing demands on our services is by working in partnership with families, schools, council and NHS services to get the right curriculum and provision in place. We are currently working to co-produce our SEND strategy to demonstrate our understanding of concerns and how we manage these pressures within the resources available to us.”
The Department for Education (DfE) said all schools must be inclusive to children with disabilities, adding that 82 per cent of all pupils with special educational needs are in state-funded mainstream schools.
In response to the increasing number of pupils with complex special educational needs, they said they have created new special schools and are committed to “delivering even more provision to ensure every child is able to access the education that they need”.
However, disability charity Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) has said that children with special educational needs are being “forced out” of mainstream education despite the new legal protections.
They accused the Government of an “on-going attack on disabled people’s rights to be included rather than segregated from society”.
Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator at ALLFIE, said: “Parental choice is a myth – parents we know do not choose special school provision, they are forced into it because mainstream schools no longer have the money and support to implement inclusive education practice.”
She said the Government was dealing with a shortfall in SEN places by planning new special schools rather than funding better provision in mainstream education.
“This is no longer about austerity, but rather this Government’s on-going attack on disabled people’s rights to be included rather than segregated from society,” she added.