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The overlap between social care, special educational needs and alternative provision: Part two

In the first part of this blogpost, we followed a single cohort of pupils born in the 2002/03 academic year. We showed the numbers placed in alternative provision (AP), referred to social services and identified as having special educational needs (SEN).

In this part, we show the extent to which those groups overlap.

Overlaps between alternative provision, social care and special educational needs

There were 635,000 pupils in our cohort at some point. 296,000 (47%) either accessed AP (state-funded AP schools or local authority alternative provision), had a child in need (CIN) referral or was identified as having SEN by the time they reached their final year of compulsory schooling.

The Venn diagram below shows the overlap between the three events for those pupils.

25,000 pupils accessed AP. The majority AP (15,000) were also identified as SEN and had a CIN referral during their school career. Just 2,000 had neither.

83,000 of the 130,000 pupils who had a CIN referral (63%) were also identified as having SEN. This is consistent with work produced by Jay and Gilbert.

Chronology of alternative provision, social care and special educational needs

In part 1, we saw the population classified as “ever referred to social care” grew steadily over time whereas the “ever AP” population increased rapidly as school leaving age approached. For that reason, it is no surprise to see that CIN referrals preceded entry to state-funded AP schools in cases where pupils had experienced both events.

That said, there is a spike of pupils for whom their first CIN referral occurs in the same year as their first entry to an AP school or the year before.

Turning to pupils who experience both being identified as having SEN and spending time in AP schools, we see that SEN identification tends to take place several years before entering AP for the majority although there is a spike where the two events coincide in the same year. This would suggest being classified as SEN for the first time on entering the AP sector.

Among the subset of SEN pupils classified as having either behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) or social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH), the pattern is slightly different. Almost half are first identified with BESD or SEMH in either the year they first enter AP schools or the following year.

The incidence of exclusion and alternative provision

Finally, we show the numbers of pupils who experience permanent exclusion or alternative provision by age 16 by CIN status and SEN status.

For the group of pupils who are ever subject to a CIN referral, we show separately the subset who are ever looked after by age 16.

For the group of pupils who are ever classified as having SEN up to age 16, we show a) those who are ever identified as having BESD or SEMH b) those identified with other needs and c) those classified as having SEN but who do not have any primary or secondary needs recorded [1].

More than 20% of the pupils who are ever looked after by age 16 spend time at an AP school [2].

In total, just over 20% of pupils in the cohort received a CIN referral by age 16. Yet these pupils accounted for 71% of permanent exclusions, 65% of those who experience state-funded AP schools and 68% of those who experience local authority alternative provision.

Similarly, the majority of pupils who experienced permanent exclusion and alternative provision had been identified as having BESD or SEMH during their school career although as the previous section indicated, this identification may have occurred subsequent to exclusion or AP.

Summing up

The majority of pupils who experience alternative provision are identified as having special educational needs and are referred to social services for a child in need assessment during their school career.

Consequently, budget cuts for SENchildren’s social care and allied services such as child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) will have disproportionately affected pupils in state-funded AP. Effective joint-working between these services would seem to be (on the surface at least) essential for improving the outcomes of young people who experience alternative provision.

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  1. 1) Prior to 2014, pupils’ primary and secondary needs were recorded in the School Census if they had SEN met by a Statement or School Action Plus. Following the code of practice changes, primary and secondary needs have been collected for pupils with SEN met by School Support or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
  2. 2) Of the 2,745 looked after pupils who spend time at an AP school, 57% had been in care prior to entering the sector.

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