Special Educational Needs


The special educational needs (SEN) variables indicates whether a pupil has learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age. From 2003 onwards the categories of SEN are:
  • “N” = no special educational needs (around 80% of children)
  • “A” = school action – the school is giving specific additional help to the child (around 11% of children)
  • “P” = school action plus – the school has requested external help for the child such as an educational psychologist or therapist (around 5% of children)
  • “S” = the child has a statement (statutory assessment by the local authority) of special educational needs (around 4% of children)

In old datasets, the code "Q" was used to signify pupils undergoing the statementing process. They can either be treated as "S" (because they are en route to a statement) or as "P" (because at the time of Census they did not yet have a statement). In the 2001/2 sweep of the School Census, the pupils are categorised into five SEN levels and the data cleaning section below shows how they can be roughly translated to the new categories.

The type of SEN can be requested as a sensitive data request from 2003/4 onwards for pupils at School Action Plus or with a statement. The categories are:
  • SPLD = Specific Learning Difficulty
  • MLD = Moderate Learning Difficulty
  • SLD = Severe Learning Difficulty
  • PMLD = Profound & Multiple Learning Difficulty
  • BESD = Behaviour, Emotional & Social Difficulties
  • SLCN = Speech, Language and Communication Needs
  • HI = Hearing Impairment
  • VI = Visual Impairment
  • MSI = Multi-Sensory Impairment
  • PD = Physical Disability
  • ASD = Autistic Spectrum Disorder
  • OTH = Other Difficulty/Disability

Data collection

SEN statuses are determined largely by how schools' SEN Co-ordinators apply the SEN Code of Practice. Some apply it more rigidly than others hence there is significant between school variation in categorising pupils with SEN. Furthermore, a child of low ability may not be categorised as SEN in a low ability school but would be if s/he transferred to a school with a high ability cohort. Schools also vary in how up-to-date they keep data. Many will review their data before School Census, particularly if their local authority uses data on numbers of pupils with SEN but without statements in their local funding formulae.

Validity of measure

It should be expected that SEN status changes over time. Typically pupils with statements will receive them in the latter years of primary education. Levels of SEN also tend to be higher in primary schools than secondary schools, hence a pupil may change from code "A" in Year 6 to code "N" in Year 7.

Levels of SEN have been increasing in recent years. Some might suggest that the inclusion of SEN in CVA models has encouraged schools to take a liberal attitude to identifying pupils with SEN.

Cleaning the variable

It is possible to roughly translate the 2001/2 SEN codes into the newer categorisation using this Stata code:
capture replace sen_02="S" if sen_02=="5"
capture replace sen_02="Q" if sen_02=="4"
capture replace sen_02="P" if sen_02=="3"
capture replace sen_02="A" if sen_02=="2"
capture replace sen_02="N" if sen_02=="1"
capture replace sen_02="N" if sen_02=="0"


Description of values across cohorts
By age groups
Over time
Stability for individual pupils is shown in the table below. Based on a random sample of 2008 data for those in Year 7. It thus shows change between primary school and secondary school assessment.


SENprovision_SPR08 * SENprovision_SPR07 Crosstabulation
% within SENprovision_SPR07

SENprovision_SPR07
Total

A
N
P
S
SENprovision_SPR08
A
8.6%
60.9%
5.7%
21.3%
.3%
14.3%
N
80.9%
30.0%
93.0%
13.2%
.6%
75.5%
P
4.7%
9.0%
1.2%
61.1%
.9%
6.6%
S
5.9%
.1%
.0%
4.4%
98.2%
3.6%
Total
100.0%
100.0%
100.0%
100.0%
100.0%
100.0%