Special educational needs children "forced out of mainstream education" across Yorkshire

Children with special needs across Yorkshire are increasingly being forced out of mainstream education despite new legal protections, a disability charity has warned.
Children with special needs across Yorkshire are increasingly being forced out of mainstream education despite new legal protections, a disability charity has warned.
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Children with special needs across Yorkshire are increasingly being “forced” out of mainstream education despite new legal protections, a disability charity has warned.

The number of children with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream education has fallen in the county since 2012, while the number attending special schools has risen by almost a third, analysis by JPIMedia shows.

In 2012, the proportion of children with SEN in Yorkshire’s primary and secondary schools was 19 per cent, according to the latest Government statistics.

But as of 2019, this had fallen to 14 per cent.

And the number of children attending special schools has risen in the county by 35 per cent, the Department for Education (DfE) figures reveal.

This is 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.

The Government said all schools should be inclusive.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) has 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.

She added: “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.”

Nationally, the number of children with SEN in mainstream education in England has dropped by a quarter - 24 per cent - since 2012, while the number attending special schools has increased by nearly a third - 31 per cent.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “All schools must be inclusive of children with disabilities and 82 per cent of all pupils identified as having special educational needs are in state-funded mainstream schools.

“Additionally, we have created new special schools in response to the increasing number of pupils with complex special educational needs and are committed to delivering even more provision to ensure every child is able to access the education that they need.”

Mainstream schools in England are now the least inclusive in the UK, the analysis by the JPIMedia data unit shows.

Now, only about one in seven children in mainstream primaries and one in eight children in mainstream secondaries have special needs.

The proportion of mainstream primary school pupils who have special needs in Yorkshire is now 18 per cent. This is a fall from 15 in 2012.

Integration of SEN pupils is even worse in secondary schools in the county. The proportion of mainstream secondary school pupils who have special needs is now 12.5 per cent. This is a fall from 20.5 per cent in 2012.

The proportion of mainstream primary school pupils who have special needs in Yorkshire is now 18 per cent. This is a fall from 15 in 2012.

The 15 local authorities in England with the lowest percentage of SEN pupils in mainstream primaries and secondaries in 2019 include York, which tabled at number 10 and 11 respectively.

Maxine Squire, assistant head of education at City of York Council, said: “Since 2014, we have had a 40 per cent rise in the number of SEN pupils and students linked to complex autism, which has increased demand for special school places.

“In addition, some of our special school provision is on mainstream school sites so, while pupils access mainstream education for some of the time they will be on the special school roll.

"This includes provision at the Hob Moor Academy school site, at Orchard - delivered at Manor CE Academy - and satellite provision, and at Haxby Road Primary Academy’s enhanced resource provision.

“Our small cohort and mixed SEN provision in York can mask the reality.”