Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

In the United Kingdom (UK), children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) experience higher levels of poverty, and personal and social disadvantage than other children. They are more likely to live with low income, deprivation, debt and poor housing, particularly disabled children from black / minority ethnic / mixed parentage groups and lone parent households (Blackburn, C.M., Spencer, N.J. and Read, J.M. (2010); Prevalence of childhood disability and the characteristics and circumstances of disabled children in the UK: secondary analysis of the Family Resources Survey, BMC Pediatrics,10(21)).

The National Picture

In July 2015, 1.3 million (15.4%) pupils in England had special educational needs (SEN):

  • 23.8% of pupils with SEN had moderate learning difficulties;
  • Autistic spectrum disorder was the most common need (24.8%);
  • SEN is more prevalent in males (16%) than females (9.2%) for all ages in state funded schools;
  • pupils in special schools increased from 5.1% in 2010 to 8.5% in 2015;
  • in 2013/14, 20.5% of pupils with SEN achieved 5+ GCSEs at A*-C or equivalent including English and Mathematics, compared to 65.3% without SEN;
  • 84.8% of 16-17 year olds with SEN or Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) were in education / training in 2015, compared to 89.7% without SEND;
  • 49% of pupils with SEN progressed to Higher Education compared to 59% of those without SEN;
  • 34% of those with Learning difficulty or disability (LDD) in colleges progressed to higher education compared to 40% of those without LDD (2013/14 destinations);
  • pupils with SEND are more likely to be absent from school / be excluded;
  • pupils with SEN are more likely to be eligible for free school meals. 27.2% of pupils with SEN are eligible for free school meals in 2016 compared to 12.1% of pupils without SEN;
  • in 2016, SEN is most prevalent in Travellers of Irish Heritage (35.5%) and Gypsy / Roma pupils (30.9%). There was a reduction in black Caribbean pupils with SEN (23.5% in 2015 to 21.7% in 2016);
  • 60.5% of children looked after had SEN in 2014/15; 27.6% with a statement or Environment health and care (EHC) plan, and 32.9% with SEN support. This compares to 50.2% of children in need with SEN, and 15.4% of all children with SEN. 37.8% of children looked after with a statement or EHC plan had ‘Social, emotional and mental health’ needs, compared to 12.7% of all children with a statement or EHC plan ( Special educational needs: analysis and summary of data sources )

The local picture

Around 2,900 children in Calderdale have a disability ( Mid year sub national population estimates 2015 ). Calderdale Disabled Children’s Census figures reveal that around 1,500 (3%) of resident children have their day to day activities limited by a long-term health condition or disability.

Government figures suggest that around 2,700 (7.3%) of school pupils in Calderdale are identified as having specific, moderate, severe, profound or multiple learning difficulties. This is significantly higher than Yorkshire and the Humber (5.0%), and England (5.0%) averages ( Pupils with Learning Disability: % of school pupils with Learning Disability ).

Currently, services do not have a consistent definition for recording disabilities, and do not necessarily record all disabilities or impairments. Work is being undertaken to improve the robustness of data collection and analysis.

Disabled children's census

Children with disabilities known to Calderdale Council services

Children with disabilities known to Calderdale Council services

Trends across age groups follow national trends. The drop-off at late teens also follows national trends, where those with life-limiting conditions reach the final stages of their life expectancy. Those aged 20-25 will be expected to increase yearly as the SEND reforms embed over coming years.

Calderdale resident population aged 0 to 15 years old identified as disabled, by ward

Calderdale resident population aged 0 to 15 years old identified as disabled by ward

The proportion of the population aged 0-15 years that are ‘disabled’ by definition, is significantly higher than average in Illingworth and Mixenden, and significantly lower in Skircoat. This distribution appears higher in more deprived wards, fitting with national estimates that prevalence rates of disabilities are higher for those from semi-skilled or unskilled households (PDFCalderdale Disabled Children's Charter [PDF 210KB]).

Assessment of children with Special educational needs (SEN) (November 2016)

  • 6,225 children are identified as having some form of disability or additional need, including SEN support in school, Statements of SEN and Education health and care (EHC) plans;
  • Total number of Statements and EHC plans = 1,072;
  • Number of EHC plans = 818;
  • Number of Statements = 254.

Current provision

Services provided for children with SEND are set out in Calderdale’s Local Offer for children with SEND, a requirement of the Children and Families Act 2014. This is updated regularly, setting out all of the services available to young people, parents, and carers of children with SEND, including mainstream, targeted and specialist services:

  • schools (mainstream/special), and details of SEN provision offered;
  • early years providers are encouraged to provide own local offer details;
  • family services offer information and guidance on support services: finance, health, behaviour, parenting, relationships and family leisure activities;
  • support for parents and young people, helping to find the right advice and support quickly;
  • care services to supporting individuals through to adulthood;
  • specialist health care available;
  • Portage and early years support teachers (PEYST) plus other SEN support Early years quality improvement support officers;
  • transition through education;
  • preparing for adulthood; support to help young people find work and live as independently as possible;
  • transition to adults services;
  • key working / person centred principles;
  • Unique Ways is a parent carer led organisation supporting disabled children and their families to lead ordinary lives, ensuring the voices of parents and carers are heard;
  • the SEND Information, advice and support service (SENDIASS) provides legally based, impartial, confidential and accessible information, advice and support for parents of children and young people with SEN or disabilities about education, health and social care;
  • information about short breaks offered by local voluntary and charitable organisations and Calderdale Council;
  • universal services such as Children’s Centres, Homestart, youth clubs, Sports zone, nurseries, libraries, play schemes and pools;
  • targeted services such as Sports zone, swimming, ‘Jam packed summer’, Gateway, early years support;
  • specialist services such as Direct payments for care services, Disabled children’s team, SEN transport, Specialist health professional support, day time care of disabled, overnight support, and Linden Brook respite care.

Examples of the support found on the Local Offer:

  • Young teenagers on the autistic spectrum have expressed isolation within their communities. The Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) team have successfully run an activity / socialising after school friendship group. This brings young people together from a variety of schools at Mixenden Activity Centre. Some friendships have been made and this initiative will continue under short breaks funding for an additional year.
  • Access to speech and language therapy (SALT) within Early years as part of the Specialist language and learning service (SLLS) is established. It relies on a consultancy and partnership model to support families, drawing on expertise of partners like PEYST. The ‘episodes of care’ model is used to empower families, children and young people in their own experience of care, but can be perceived negatively by families if not fully understood. Further work is necessary to engage service users in this model.

User views

Most of our engagement with children, young people, and their families is about their experiences of using services. The latest survey carried out by Unique Ways has a wealth of useful feedback. Calderdale is required to complete regular implementation surveys for the Department for Eduction (DfE), reflecting on the progress in implementing SEND reforms. Family Voice Calderdale has completed a separate survey. The information below provides an analysis of both surveys.

Five areas of good practice:

  1. Strategic planning and co-production with parents / carers;
  2. progress with transferring statements to EHC plans;
  3. strategic ‘buy in’ and accountability of all partners;
  4. strong SEN coordinators (SENCO) network;
  5. training and development offer for parents, schools and early years providers.

Five areas requiring further development:

  1. Strategic Planning and co-production with children / young people;
  2. developing a flexible local Post 16 / 19 offer in Calderdale;
  3. availability of supported internships / apprenticeships for young people with SEND;
  4. consistency of SEN support;
  5. engagement of hard to reach parents / carers.

Young people presented feedback to the Calderdale Local Offer group on the website and the Calderdale College Local Offer, following which we simplified wording and cut out jargon. There is a Local Offer Facebook page , and a dedicated Young People’s section will be created which they would contribute to and use. The group have inspected the SEND offer on school and college websites in Calderdale, feeding back on their accessibility and information.

Young people were consulted when choosing household items and furnishings for the Transition resource for Independent Living (TRIP) flat, developed to support young people with SEND to have the opportunity to live independently for a short period of time, whilst being supported by staff at Ryburn House. During the pilot inspection in 2015, the group met with Ofsted Inspectors to offer a young person’s perspective on changes that had taken place. A questionnaire was developed which they will carry out with people using the Ryburn TRIP flat to see how it can be improved.

We had a consultation with young people to capture their views around what they like and don’t like, and what they would like to see more of in the future around Short Breaks. This was a successful exercise and we continue to work with providers to extend the offer. ‘Flamingo chicks’ dance group are now involved, along with a dance centre in North Halifax who can be totally inclusive and bespoke for those with additional needs.

Unmet needs

Our local challenges are:

  • developing robust provisions for under 19 year olds;
  • enhancing children and young people’s opportunities to access a range of leisure activities;
  • developing the market for personal assistants;
  • developing an area wide approach to sensory processing;
  • improving consistency of SEN support across provisions and where development is needed;
  • engage all schools in meaningful co-production at SEN support level, to ensure clarity of responsibilities;
  • providers are encouraged to train SENCOs and work closely with PEYST to develop effective practice;
  • Calderdale has a strategic working group working on development of SEN support in schools;
  • reducing barriers to accessing therapeutic support;
  • effective communication of support available and eligibility to specialist services;
  • improve waiting times and support for children and young people on the ASD pathway, parents, and support the undiagnosed;
  • effectively communicate how speech, language, and communication support is delivered directly or indirectly by SALT;
  • strategic planning and co-production with children and young people;
  • developing a flexible local Post 16 / 19 offer in Calderdale;
  • availability of supported internships and apprenticeships for young people with SEND;
  • engagement of hard to reach parents / carers;
  • manage increase in demand on specialist services, eg waiting lists for PEYST support and Child development service (CDS);
  • support development capacity within the early years workforce to deliver quality SEND provision in light of the 30 hour childcare offer;
  • ensure availability of adequate specialist equipment to support access to childcare / after school provisions;
  • Ravenscliffe High School and Sports College should have 69 students for its space, but currently has 164 on roll.

Projected future need

The number of young people aged 20 to 25 years with SEND is expected to increase as the SEND reforms embed over the next few years.

According to the 2011 census, there are 12,906 children aged 0 to 4 years and 24,545 children and young people aged 5 to 14 years in Calderdale. The numbers of children aged 0 to 4 years are projected to increase by 5.3% by 2015 and by 12.1% by 2020. There is also an increase in the number of children with SEND.

In 2016, 16 young people from Calderdale attend residential post 19 specialist colleges. There is growing demand for this provision since the changes introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. These placements are residential due to the fact there is currently a lack of post 19 special education provision available locally.

Many young people with EHC plans study at local mainstream colleges after leaving school. Work is currently taking place to increase the range of post 19 study options available and to create a 5 day offer for post 19 young people with EHC plans. The five day offer is currently working with 8 learners at college.

42 (out of 49) of non maintained special school placements are for young people with Social, emotional and behaviour difficulties (SEBD) and / or Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). These young people are the majority of Calderdale young people in independent special schools. Calderdale has no maintained special schools which cater specifically for these areas of need, so there is a need to place young people, with complex needs in these areas, in independent special schools. There is a long term need to increase the availability of local authority maintained provision in this area.

Key considerations linked to the known evidence base (what works?)

Involving children, young people and parents in decision making

Local authorities must consult the child and the child’s parent throughout the process of assessment and production of an EHC plan. They should involve the child as far as possible. The needs of the individual should sit at the heart of the assessment and planning process. Local authorities must have regard to the views, wishes and feelings of the child, child’s parent or young person, their aspirations, the outcomes they wish to seek, and the support they need to achieve them. It should enable children, young people and parents to have control over decisions about their support, including the use of a Personal budget for those with an EHC plan.

The assessment and planning process should:

  • focus on the child / young person as an individual;
  • enable children / young people and parents to express views, wishes and feelings;
  • enable children / young people and parents to be part of decision making processes;
  • be easy for children, young people and parents / carers to understand, and use clear ordinary language and images rather than professional jargon;
  • highlight the child / young person’s strengths and capabilities;
  • enable the child / young person, and those that know them best to say what they have done, are interested in, and what outcomes they seek in future;
  • tailor support for individual needs;
  • organise assessments to minimise demands on families;
  • bring together relevant professionals to discuss and agree an overall approach;
  • deliver an outcomes focused and coordinated plan for the child / young person and parents.

This approach is person centred; professionals and local authorities can ensure that children, young people and parents are involved in all aspects of planning and decision-making.


References and further information


Further information

A more detailed version of this chapter is available: PDFChildren and young people with special educational needs and disabilities - extended version [PDF 491KB]

More information can also be found in the PDFCalderdale Disabled children's census [PDF 191KB] .

More information on children and young people can be found in Further resources .


Commissioning team, Children and Young Peoples Service, Calderdale Council,

Special educational needs (SEN) Manager, Children and Young Peoples Service, Calderdale Council,

Senior Portage and Early Years Support teacher, Children and Young Peoples Service, Calderdale Council,

Specialist Inclusion Team Manager, Children and Young Peoples Service, Calderdale Council,

edited by Emily Powell, Public Health Intelligence Intern, Public Health, Calderdale Council,

Naomi Marquis, Public Health Intelligence Officer, Public Health, Calderdale Council.

January 2017.

See also