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Pupil special educational needs and disabilities: identification, access and patterns of mental health support

Researchers: Jo Hutchinson | Dr Johnny Downs ...

Project overview

The project aims to assess how fairly and effectively special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are identified and addressed for different groups of children. It will also explore patterns of overlap between SEND status and support through child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) for pupils with mental health difficulties.

Social mobility and mental health are high on the policy and political agenda, and the special educational needs system is currently undergoing major reforms. However, there is little robust evidence on which to base future policy development.

The research will use administrative data to build a detailed picture of the groups of children who are most likely to be recorded as having SEND, the numbers of children with SEND expected in each part of the country based on this profile, and where and when the number of children identified with SEND by their school is higher or lower than expected. The researchers will also look at whether some groups of children (such as disadvantaged children or from particular ethnic groups) are more likely to be identified with some types of SEND than other children, or less likely to be identified with other types of SEND.

A second strand of the project will use data from the Department for Education and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to examine which types of children are most likely to be identified for SEND support, when and where there are fewer (or more) children identified than expected, and how many children access support from one of, or both, the school SEND system and CAMHS.

Findings will contribute to our understanding of whether socioeconomically disadvantaged children have fair access to support compared with more advantaged children, and whether patterns of access are showing any signs of change following recent reforms to the SEND and wider school system.

To launch this research project, the Education Policy Institute have released a note with some preliminary statistics on how many children in each age/year group schools have been identified as having SEND. For full details on this, please visit the Education Policy Institute website.

Latest on this project


  • Jo Hutchinson
    Education Policy Institute
  • Dr Johnny Downs
    King's College London
  • Professor Tamsin Ford
    University of Exeter
  • Natalie Perera
    The Education Policy Institute
  • Jon Andrews
    The Education Policy Institute

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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