Why are Learning Differences on the rise?

group of children crowded round school room table

SEN on the rise?

Working in education as well as being an SEN mum, I am intrigued to understand why learning differences are on the increase.  Is it as simple as them being more widely diagnosed, or possibly the stigma surrounding having an SEN is lifting, or are there other reasons for the increase in our children today?

Despite all our advances in medicine, and technology at our fingertips, learning difficulties are on the increase. It is a conversation that can be difficult to broach and isn’t always supported.

What is  SEN

But before I try and find out some answers, I thought it might be worth explaining exactly what SEN is.

The NHS describes SEN as ‘A child or young person has special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty that means they need special health and education support, we shorten this to SEN.

Diagnosed conditions that come under the SEN umbrella are conditions such as (but not limited to) ADHD, Asperger’s, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Epilepsy, Hearing Impairment, Spina Bifida, Tourette’s Syndrome.

Does my child have an SEN

According to IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) there are two questions you should ask yourself if you are concerned about your child’s development:

1. Do they have a learning difficulty or disability?
A child or young person has a learning difficulty or disability if:

  • they have significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
  • they have a disability which makes it difficult for them to use the facilities normally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or post-16 institutions.

2. Does that learning difficulty or disability call for special educational provision to be made?

Special educational provision is any educational or training provision that is additional to, or different from, that made generally for other children or young people of the same age. This is a wide definition, and could cover a wide range of things, for example:

  • having materials provided in a larger font
  • needing one-to-one support
  • communicating through sign language
  • needing small class sizes

Read their full article here for more information.

SEN stats 2020

  • 3.3% of pupils have an EHC Plan/Statement of SEN. A rise for the 3rd consecutive year.
  • 12.2% of pupils receive SEN support. Again a rise for the 3rd consecutive year.
  • The most common type of need for pupils with an EHC Plan is Autistic Spectrum Disorders; and for pupils with SEN support is Speech, Communication and Language Needs.
  • SEN is more prevalent in boys than girls, with boys representing 73.1% of all pupils with an EHC plan and 64.6% of pupils with SEN support.
  • The percentage of pupils with an EHC plan who are eligible for free school meals is 34.6%, more than double that for pupils with no SEN (14.9%). A year on year increase since 2018.
  • SEN is most prevalent at age 10, concurring with this, SEN support decreases from age 10.  However, the percentage of EHC Plans continue to grow with age, throughout all school ages.

To read the full education statistics go to Gov.uk

It is  clear that learning differences are on the increase and have been for several years, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer as to why.  Some suggest an increase in sugary snacks and drinks to be the cause; some larger class sizes and a change in ‘educational style’; others an increase in screen time and loss of day to day social interaction and development; there could also be the fact that awareness surrounding SEN is increasing, therefore assessment requests and diagnosis will increase as a consequence.

However, no matter what the reason for the increase, we need to acknowledge it.  As educators we need to try our best to understand and improve our support where we can.  And as parents we need to educate ourselves so that we can support our children as best we can, and ensure they get the support needed to thrive and become the best they can.  Every child deserves that…

Fay x

More like this

If you liked this post then you may like more posts in:

SEN & Learning Support

Or follow my Pinterest board, for even more support, activities and tips:

SEN | Dyslexia | Dyscalculia | Learning Support

Featured Image: Photo by 2y.kang on Unsplash

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