Charity hits out as new figures show drop in special needs children going to mainstream schools in Luton

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The number of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools in Luton has dropped by nearly 1,800 over the last seven years, according to new figures.

The disability charity, The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), compiled a national report and says the figures show that children with special educational needs (SEN) are being "forced" out of mainstream education despite new legal protections.

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They accused the Government of an “on-going attack on disabled people’s rights to be included rather than segregated from society”. And campaigners have accused schools of putting exam results and their reputations before the needs of disabled pupils.

The number of children with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream education has fallen by a quarter (24%) in England since 2012, while the number attending special schools has risen by nearly a third (31%), analysis by this newspaper shows.

In Luton, the figures show that in 2012, 4,035 SEN children were placed in mainstream primary schools. In 2019, that figure was 3,488. In secondary schools, there were 2,855 SEN children in maintstream primary schools in 2012. In 2019, that figure was 1,669.

his is despite the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014, which states that children with SEN should usually be given a place in mainstream classes.

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The Government said all schools should be inclusive. Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator at ALLFIE, said: “Parental choice is a myth – parents we know do not choose special school provision, they are forced into it because mainstream schools no longer have the money and support to implement inclusive education practice.”

She said the Government was dealing with a shortfall in SEN places by planning new special schools rather than funding better provision in mainstream education.

She added: “This is no longer about austerity, but rather this Government’s on-going attack on disabled people’s rights to be included rather than segregated from society.”

The Department for Education said: “All schools must be inclusive of children with disabilities and 82 per cent of all pupils identified as having special educational needs are in state-funded mainstream schools.

“Additionally, we have created new special schools in response to the increasing number of pupils with complex special educational needs and are committed to delivering even more provision to ensure every child is able to access the education that they need.”