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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Rise in pupils with special needs
boy in classroom
There has been another rise in the numbers of schoolchildren in England who are said to have special educational needs.

Official figures show a total of 1.53 million such pupils in January. This was 56,660 more than the year before - even though school rolls fell overall.

Boys were in the majority - with more than one in four of all boys aged seven to 10 said to have special needs.

Fewer children had formal "statements" detailing the help they should get.

This led the Liberal Democrats to say the figures showed the most vulnerable were being "neglected". The government said they were being helped within their schools.

The proportion of pupils with such statements stayed the same, at 2.9% on average - one in 37 boys and one in 100 girls.


The proportion identified as having special needs but who did not have statements rose from 14.9% of the school population as a whole to 15.7%.

That was an increase of 5.4% in one year.

Overall they were much more likely to be from homes that were poor enough to qualify them for free school meals.

The most prevalent types of need among those with statements were speech, language and communication difficulties in primary schools, and moderate learning difficulty in secondary schools and special schools.

'Real and growing problems'

Liberal Democrat children's spokesperson Annette Brooke said the figures showed the government was not giving local authorities the resources they needed for adequate provision of services.

"It should be a wake-up call to ministers when they see how many children from poorer homes are struggling," she said.

"These figures have also highlighted the real and growing problems primary school children have with speaking and listening skills.

"More effort needs to go into tackling this issue as early as possible in a child's life. Mountains of tests and targets for reading, writing and arithmetic have led to vital speaking and listening skills being overlooked."

But a spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said what was happening was that children's needs were being met effectively within schools.

She said many local authorities had reduced centrally-retained budgets and increased the level of delegation to schools, enabling staff there to intervene early to address the individual needs of pupils more quickly.

"We want parents to have confidence that their children will get a good education and that their needs will be met effectively in school without feeling that the only way to achieve this is through a statement."

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