The truth behind SEN statements in mainstream primary schools

In the UK, 20% of children are identified as having special educational needs (SEN), but less than 3% have a formal ‘statement’ outlining their needs and detailing how they should be supported.

In this study, Professor Blatchford and colleagues tracked the detailed experiences of 48 pupils in Year 5 with statements of SEN, to find out how the reality compares to the provision set out in the statements. They also analysed transcripts of adult-pupil interaction and interviewed key people involved in the provision of support.

Key findings

  • Pupils’ with SEN statements experience a high degree of separation from the mainstream classroom, and much support from teaching assistants.
  • Teaching assistants have more responsibility for pupils with statements than teachers do.
  • The appropriateness and quality of pedagogy for statemented pupils is unlikely to close the attainment gap.
  • There are considerable gaps in teachers’ and teaching assistants’ knowledge concerning how to meet the needs of pupils with statements.
  • There are concerns about the ways in which schools prioritise meeting the needs of pupils with statements.

Key recommendations

This project was conducted during a period of large-scale reform in government policy on SEN, as set out in the 2013 Children and Families Bill. The findings from this study have clear implications for two proposals in the bill:

Firstly, new Education and Health Care plans (EHCPs) should avoid expressing support for pupils in terms of hours. Instead, EHCPs should specify the pedagogical processes and strategies that will help meet carefully defined outcomes.

Secondly, setting personal budgets should be dependent on the outcomes specified in the EHCP, to avoid schools making decisions about support based predominantly on the resources available. 

Follow-on study
A follow-on study is now underway, examining the experiences of pupils with SEN statements in mainstream secondary schools.