SEND

SEND: Number of EHCPs soars by highest rate in 6 years

But around half are still not issued by the 20-week legal deadline

But around half are still not issued by the 20-week legal deadline

The number of youngsters with an education, health and care plan for SEND in England has soared by the highest rate in six years, new data shows.

But almost half of plans are still not being issued within the statutory 20-day window, as the special educational needs system groans under the pressure of rising demand and inadequate funding.

As of January this year, 575,963 such plans for youngsters aged up to 25 years old with special educational needs and disabilities were in place. This is up 58,914, or 11.4 per cent, on the previous year.

The increase is the highest seen since 2018, when the number of EHCPs and predecessor statements rose by roughly the same proportion.

EHCPs attract extra funding and detail the support a child has to receive, also naming the school that must deliver it.

Department for Education data shows there were 84,428 new EHCPs that started during 2023, up 17,722 (26.6 per cent) from 2022, the highest increase since 2016.

Requests up, but more refused

The number of requests for EHCPs also grew to 138,242, up 23,760 or 20.8 per cent, a slightly lower increase than in the previous two years.

But the proportion of initial requests for assessment for an EHCP that were refused rose to 24 per cent, up from 22.1 per cent in 2022 and the highest level since 2018.

The data also shows that just 50.3 per cent of EHCPs were issued within the statutory 20-week window in 2023, up slightly from 49.2 per cent the year before, but still far below the highs of around 60 per cent between 2015 and 2021.

Children of compulsory school age now account for 69.1 per cent of all EHCPs, slightly higher than 2023 when the figure was 68.6 per cent.

There has been a slight increase in the proportion of pupils with EHCPs in mainstream schools, from 41.3 to 43.3 per cent, and a slight decrease in the proportion attending special schools, from 33.2 to 32.3 per cent.

Of those who were issued a new plan in 2023, 74.9 per cent attended a mainstream school, up from 72.1 per cent of those starting a new plan in 2022. It comes amid a shortage in special school places.

‘Huge pressure’

Louise Gittins, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said the figures were a “reminder of the huge pressure councils are under”

“It is absolutely vital whoever forms the next government brings forward proposals without delay to reform the SEND system, with a focus on improving levels of mainstream inclusion, as well as write off councils’ high needs deficits.”

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the ASCL leaders’ union, warned “failure to match rising demand with appropriate government investment has brought the whole SEND system to the brink of collapse, with schools being unable to afford the costs of SEND provision, a lack of places available in special schools, and local authorities having huge high needs deficits”.

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