Central Bedfordshire children attending special schools up 43% amid claims they are ‘forced’ out of mainstream education

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

In total, 15.1% of Central Beds children (2,500) in mainstream primary schools had SEN in 2012, with that figure dropping to 12.8% (2,941) in 2019, analysis by JPIMedia has revealed.

For Central Beds’ mainstream secondary schools, 19.4% of children (4,255) had SEN in 2012, with 2019 showing 13.3% of pupils (2,830).

And the number of children in special school has risen 43.4% in Central Beds, from 445 in 2012 to 638 in 2019.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) accused the Government of an “on-going attack on disabled people’s rights to be included rather than segregated from society”.

And campaigners have accused schools of putting exam results and their reputations before the needs of disabled pupils.

The number of children with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream education has fallen by a quarter (24%) in England since 2012, while the number attending special schools has risen by nearly a third (31%).

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.

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.”

The Department for Education 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.

In comparison, Scotland has seen a sharp rise in the number of children with Additional Support Needs (ASN) in mainstream education, following a drive for greater inclusion.

Inclusion figures in mainstream schools have stayed relatively steady in Northern Ireland and Wales since 2012.

In Northern Ireland, 22 per cent of children in mainstream education have SEN, whereas the proportion in Wales is 23 per cent.