The number of pupils with education, health and care plans increased by 10 per cent in the past year, the Department for Education has said.
The latest data shows there were 390,109 pupils with an EHC plan as of January 2020, up from 353,995 at the same point in 2019. However, at the same time, pupil numbers have also increased.
It follows a rise of 11 per cent between January 2018 and January 2019.
Of the EHC plans held as of this January, 35 per cent were for children aged 11 to 15 years, while 33 per cent were held by those aged 5 to 10 years. Thirty-nine per cent were held by pupils in mainstream schools.
The number of EHC plans issued by councils has been steadily growing since the middle of the decade, when the plans were introduced to replace statements of special educational needs.
EHC plans, which are used to determine how much funding schools get for each pupil, cover a greater range of conditions and have become increasingly sought-after as funding pressures have continued to bite.
Today’s data shows that 53,900 children and young people received a new EHC plan during the 2019 calendar year, up 10 per cent on the year before.
Of the new plans issued in 2019, 47 per cent were for pupils aged five to 10, 25 per cent were for those aged 11 to 15, and 23 per cent were for those under five.
The Parliamentary public accounts committee this week called for “concrete action” to address “significant failings” in support for pupils with SEND.
An inquiry by the committee found that the education, wellbeing and life-chances of pupils with SEND are being damaged by the government’s failure to give them the support they need.
Many of the issues with the current system stem from reforms brought in by the 2014 children and families act, which introduced EHC plans to gradually replace statements of SEND. As of January 2018, no more pupils held a statement.
Problems with the administration of EHC plans, coupled with real-terms budget cuts, have led to variations in the quality of support across England, with the proportion of pupils with EHC plans varying from 1 per cent in some areas to as much as 5.9 per cent in others.
The PAC warned in its report that these plans had become a “golden ticket that parents fight for to secure access to adequate support for their children”. In 2017-18, parents launched 526 appeals against councils’ refusals to issue EHC plans. Just 298 appeals were launched in 2013-14.