35 2 mins 10 yrs

When I was at school, no one in my class had “special needs”. If they had, no one knew about it. Special Needs hadn’t been invented back then but these days….?

Official figures show more than one-in-five pupils in England are now labelled as suffering behavioural problems, learning and communication difficulties or physical disabilities. A report published by the Department for Education today showed boys and children from the poorest backgrounds were significantly more likely to be classified than other pupils. The study also underlined the link between special needs and poor examination results. According to data, pupils without special needs are more than three times as likely to reach the standard expected for their age at the end of secondary school than classed as having behavioural and learning problems.

I’m sure the State will be able to find even more children it can classify as having “special needs” that only the State can meet.  Either the health of British children has fallen into third world ruin in a generation OR this Special Needs net has been cast far too wide and is a scam.

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  1. When I was at school, no one in my class had “special needs”.

    Unless you left school before 1963 they did. The Plowden report, which was commissioned in 1963 and reported in 1967, identified exactly the same figure: 1 in 5 pupils. It also established the link between income and performance (and before anyone goes off on one, it established a correlation not a causative link).

    It is pretty obvious that a child with educational difficulties is going to find it harder to achieve success at examinations.

    It is interesting that the ratio has remained constant over so long a period of time. It is also interesting that someone who purports to be Education editor of a national newspaper doesn’t seem to be aware of one of the most important and influential educational reports of recent times.

  2. Geoff

    1. Did you know my class? I repeat – no special needs.
    2. Plowden is a great example of the Nanny State trash we have endured ever since. It’s a charter for the State, little wonder you quote it so favourable.
    3. Define “educational difficulties”? I figure not being able to speak English is a key one, don’t you?

  3. It’s a scam.

    Official figures show more than one-in-five pupils in England are now labelled as suffering behavioural problems, learning and communication difficulties or physical disabilities.

    Alot of people make alot of money from diagnosing illness and disorders in others, from special needs teachers, charities and advisors to drugs firms who supply the special needs dope.

    Granted some children do have a special need, namely the need to be children instead of being couped up in front of the goggle box, mind poisoned by trash, fed processed rubbish and feminised in schools which don’t let boys be boys.

    Very few children have learning difficulties. Their problems are the weirdo adults around them.

  4. 1. There are two scenarios: at no point in your educational career was there ever a child who had special educational needs (or to use the term of the day, educationally sub-normal); or there were and you didn’t know about them.

    2. It is a charter for making the state education system more effective and providing support for under-performing children. Rather than say every child is the same as every other one, it identified different groups. Once you have done that, you can tailor teaching and learning to what is appropriate for those groups. The alternative was to say every child is the same – which is manifestly not true.

    3. The usual definition for a child being put on the SEN register is that they are estimated to be six months behind their peers in developmental terms. A child for whom English is a second language would almost certainly be considered to have a special need which would require some additional support. A child who is unable to access the rest of the curriculum because they can’t understand English, no matter how intelligent that child is, will not thrive.

  5. Pete

    Exactly. It’s become quite a lucrative industry for all those “experts” who can solve the problems that others would deny. That’s why our children are leaving school so well educated and so well balanced, right?


    Maybe you’re right. The current Deputy Leader of the Ulster Unionists was in my class. Maybe he fits the scenario, after all, who in their senses would want to hold that role?
    Wonder of Immigration and rise of Islam has had any impact on “special needs”?

  6. A lot of people make a lot of money from diagnosing illness and disorders in others, from special needs teachers, charities and advisors to drugs firms who supply the special needs dope.

    If it is a scam, it is a very badly thought out one. Most special educational needs provision is done by the class teacher without the use of external agencies or funding. Only a very small minority require specialist intervention.

    Very few children have learning difficulties.

    Fortunately this is true. What a larger number of children have are temporary problems that require intervention and support. When intervention strategies are successful, they are taken of the SEN register. There will be a small persistent group who have more severe problems who may remain on the SEN register for their entire time at school, an even smaller group who will require additional support that a school cannot provide from its own resources, and a tiny group who have such profound problems that mainstream education is not suitable for them and they will have to attend a special school.

    Special needs is about treating children as individuals, identifying their needs, and providing the education that is appropriate for them. At the opposite end of the spectrum a much smaller percentage (about 5%) are deemed to be gifted and talented. They likewise have provision made for their needs.

  7. Geoff Watts –

    It’s a grim irony that someone who lauds the Plowden Report should have such an interest in “special needs” children. It’s that disastrous, Marxist-inspired paper which has done so much damage to real education and generations of British children.

    It’s Plowden which properly inflicted “child-centered” teaching on children despite more than a century of incontrovertible evidence that synthetic phonics is superior. This is a primary reason why hundreds of thousands of reenagers leave school each year unable to read and write properly.

    This is just one of the great catastrophes inflicted on millions of Britons by a woman and ruling class which wouldn’t dream of inflicting their own children to comprehensive education. They are the social engineers for whom schools are prisons to shape the children of the masses with drivel instead of history, maths, English, the sciences, where their minds and morals are poisoned with sex and drugs “education” and, now, indoctrinated with Marxist drivel about “citizenship”.

    It’s just a wonder that all children aren’t made demented by the calamitous comprehensive system. No wonder the progressive elites pay to educate their children privately.

  8. Pete Moore

    These are the facts of the matter in hand:
    * Recognition of special needs has been practiced for more than half a century.
    * The 1:5 ratio was first discussed in the early 1960s.
    * It is not a scam as the vast majority of special needs teaching is done in class by class teachers.
    * Most children are only temporarily on the register as most intervention is successful.
    * Some children require external support.
    * A very small percentage are so profoundly disabled that they require special schools.
    * Special needs provision is about identifying each child’s particular needs and addressing them, rather than treating all children as the same.
    * A smaller percentage of children at the opposite end of the ability spectrum are identified as gifted and talented and provision is made for them.

    Now with that out of the way, we could change the subject and go pinging off on a tangent and write a pub rant full of assertions, unsubstantiated claims, and wild exaggerations based on second-hand knowledge and recycling others’ views, constructed without any research, evidence or even so much as talking to anyone — but that was no doubt cathartic in its exposition — or we could stick to the subject in hand.
    Up to you.

  9. Geoff Watts –

    You started it. If you’re going to laud a catastrophe like the Plowden Report then expect a response.

    I repeat, 1 child in 5 does not have a special educational need, this is plainly nonsense.

  10. Like I say, I am sure you felt much better at the end of it.

    Back to the subject at hand. Your evidence that challenges 50 years of research is …?

  11. Here, there is the phenomenon of parents seeking this status for their children – so as to take advantage of schools with fewer students in the classroom, etc etc. And schools can go along for the ride, since there is more cash for treating those with special needs.

    This is all prodded by scam artist attorneys who bring lawsuits against schools who ” fail to provide a proper education ”

    One might think all this scamming ultimately harms those who really have special needs.

  12. Here is quite the opposite. Schools get no extra funds for most special needs provision as it falls under the remit of the class teacher.

    The most severe children but who can remain in mainstream education get a statement which does attract partial funding. However budgets for statements have been cut so they are much harder to obtain, in particular the growth of the academy programme means that LEAs, which have a statutory duty to make provision, have even less money.

    Even if a child gets a statement, it is only for partial funding. Schools have to make up the difference. Children with statements have a negative impact on school budgets.

    As for shyster lawyers – alas they seem to be a global phenomenon.

  13. Shyster lawyers – are very much a USA / UK / Australia function

    When you speak to business people from continental Europe or Asia, they express their open astonishment that we allow this state of affairs to exist and get worse, which it is.

    And there’s no solution to be had in this country, since both major parties are in on it, are part of the problem, as they are both heavily populated by lawyers and lobbyists.

    Most presidents, including all who followed Reagan, were / are lawyers. That’s a problem, when you get down to it. Those guys should not be excluded from public life, but at present they are a wildly overrepresented clique.

  14. Noel

    This is what I am speaking about. These guys proliferate like weeds, and they collaborate like mafia clans to divvy up the loot coast to coast.

  15. 13 minutes after Noel’s comment, the NY Times website still doesn’t have the report up.

    They’ve lost something off their fastball.

  16. “the NY Times website still doesn’t have the report up.”

    Strange, and David had it on Twitter a full hour before I posted.

  17. Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/20/us-libya-idUSTRE79F1FK20111020

    “Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi died of wounds suffered on Thursday as fighters battling to complete an eight-month-old uprising against his rule overran his hometown Sirte, Libya’s interim rulers said.

    His killing, which came swiftly after his capture near Sirte, is the most dramatic single development in the Arab Spring revolts that have unseated rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and threatened the grip on power of the leaders of Syria and Yemen.”

    Just love that first sentence of the second paragraph. Note the phraseology, and compare it with later, – and more edited, – versions! We may even hear of his body being buried at sea…

  18. “We may even hear of his body being buried at sea..…”

    I think it’s more likely we’ll hear that he wasn’t killed at all, and that the corpse was some “patsy”, and that G has since been seen walking openly in Egypt or somewhere.

  19. The cynic in me says that killed or not it won’t make much difference to the civilisation of that part of the world. 50 years from now they will still be a mob.

    As for the original subject on special needs. The problem is that the educationalists themselves are the ones who have these.

    Harking back to the old (very old) days when teaching was done properly the existence of special needs pupils was minimal. It wasn’t called special needs then. They were merely dunces. But of course you can’t say that now. It’s all turned into a crock of shite.

  20. Marloy

    I am going to continue my defence of special needs education. Again we have had half a century of evidence that identifying children with particular needs, stepping in and focussing on that need, has been effective.
    Both you and Pete Moore seem to think that you have some greater truth, despite the fact that there is half of century that shows this strategy has been effective.
    What special needs means is that a child has a need over and above that of his or her contemporaries. That is all it means. Most of those needs are transitory and respond well. In most cases it simply says that a child is six months or more behind their cohort.
    Are you suggesting that schools shouldn’t identify these children? That they should ignore them? Are you suggesting that it is wrong for a school to treat each child differently?
    Some children may be thick – in which case they are going to be on the special needs register for their entire time at school. But better that and they get the education appropriate for them, than to ignore their needs.
    I find it utterly perplexing that anyone thinks this is wrong, bad or somehow controversial. The whole premise is about tailoring teaching to the needs of each child and treating them accordingly. Would you prefer the alternative?

  21. Marloy,

    Agreed, the very label of ‘special needs’ probably does more to hinder and diminish a child’s personality and self-worth than to encourage effort.

    ‘The usual definition for a child being put on the SEN register is that they are estimated to be six months behind their peers in developmental terms.’

    That the age differential in any class could well at least a year, ensures that there will always be a special needs category in each and every class. Surely that is well within the range of a competent teacher to cope with, without the need for unecessary labelling!

  22. Geoff Watts,

    ‘Are you suggesting that schools shouldn’t identify these children?’

    Yes, but should that not also be well within a teacher’s expected skill set? without the need for labels, – isn’t it enough that the socialist mindset already has so many definitive labels, – including – ‘them and us’, and ‘privileged’, etc…

  23. ‘Special needs’ is just a term that has sprung up of late. It is as you say transitory at times but often this is merely because a kid has fallen behind through laziness and lack of effort. What he/she should have had was 100 lines or some other such punishment instead of being classed as having special needs. There are very, very few children in the whole of a school who have what you describe as real special needs. For this small category the brutal truth is that there is very little anyone can do to improve the end result. There is much truth in the saying that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. This doesn’t mean that these children will fail in life, merely that they will find their own level and in many cases achieve success in doing something of which they are capable.

    There was much value in the old system of applying different levels of teaching to children of different abilities – the old A, B and C classes. This way the children would be among their peers and would not feel the stigma of being classed as ‘special needs’. The teaching would be tailored to suit their abilities. But of course with comprehensive education came the fallacy that all are equal when of course we are not.

  24. Ernest, I agree with you and especially on the ‘label’ aspect. Good teachers should be able to deal with kids of all abilities, but as already written they should be segregated into groups. Nothing wrong with that but everything to gain. Let the best get ahead and the worst find their level. Why is that so wrong? The money that is being poured ito schools nowadays for all these extra posts – and please don’t get me started on teaching assistants!

  25. Ernest
    Ah – ok that is fair point. All the label does is allow a child to be identified so that the school can monitor his or her progress. By putting a child on the special needs register it says we believe this child’s progress is of sufficient concern to merit intervention.
    At that point the school will then draw up what is called an individual educational plan, which is agreed in consultation with the parents and the teacher, as to what is to be done.
    Having a register allows not only one child’s progress or even one class, but the whole school. Let’s say a school identifies that for whatever reason one particular group of children is disproportionately represented on on the special needs register, then that would allow all the teachers to be aware of that and take steps to rectify it.
    The answer to your question is yes. It is within a teacher’s expected skill set – which is why the overwhelming majority of special needs support is done by class teachers. All this nonsense about it being a scam is just ill-informed tosh by people with an axe to grind and no facts to suport them.
    Yes there are children on ritalin, yes there are educational psychologists. But the overwhelming majority of children on the special needs register are dealt with by the regular classroom teacher

  26. Marlloy
    When was the last time you went into a school? All secondary school stream by ability – comprehensive or not. No one has ever suggested that all children are equal – and that is what special needs is exactly about – treating each child according to his or her needs.
    Yes there are going to be children who are as thick as two short planks and no matter what you do, they will remain that way. So you do what you can for them by identifying their needs and devising a plan for them.
    You are absolutely right – that doesn’t mean they will fail in life. But if you don’t recognise that their needs are different to the needs of other pupils, then they are not going to get the education that is right for them.
    Then there are going to be children who for whatever reason are slipping behind. If they slip only a little bit behind, then that is just a question of identifying it and adjusting teaching accordingly. But if they don’t respond then what? You have to come up with additional strategies to deal with it.
    If it is laziness and lack of effort then that is easy to deal with. It might be something even simpler – like they didn’t understand a key concept and that has blocked their progress. Or it might be a social problem at home, or it might one of any number of reasons. But until you talk to the child and his or her parents how will you know? That is why you have intervention strategies.
    I come back to what the definition of a special need is – it is simply that in the opinion of the teacher that a child is not making the progress that is expected of them and that they are six months or more behind where that child would be expected to be.
    Some special needs are obvious, such as children with profound learning or physical disabilities.

  27. Geoff Watts,

    Interesting discussion, – my apologies for the Ghaddaffi diversion!

    Being the very proud Grandfather of a Down’s Grandaughter, I try to take more than a cursory interest in how ‘the system’ impinges on, not just the education, but also on the personality of the vulnerable. I tend to be wary of anything that replaces responsibility with bureacracy.

    Thank you for your responses which were very informative in explaining the educators pov…

  28. Ernest

    That the age differential in any class could well at least a year, ensures that there will always be a special needs category in each and every class. Surely that is well within the range of a competent teacher to cope with, without the need for unecessary labelling!

    I phrased that badly. There is no exact definition of special needs as it is a subjective assessment made by a teacher of a pupil. The six month rule simply says that if a child is six months behind where you would expect that child to be. Now of course it isn’t an exact science so it is simply about a teacher identifying a child as having a problem over and above that which almost all children will have from time to time, and a problem that is not responding to normal strategies.

    It seems that it is the label to which you object.

  29. Ernest

    I hope that your granddaughter enjoys a good school that is able to give her whatever the support is that she needs.
    Sometimes it is difficult to get the right support staff – you mentioned teaching assistants, sometimes they are not as good as you would like or hope for. But it often comes down to budget. They are not well paid.
    There was talk about closing special schools and integrating even the most profoundly disabled children into mainstream education. This has been done in some states in America.
    While this may seem laudable, I don’t think it is a good idea. If a child is in a special school it says they have a very profound need – and these schools are centres of excellence and have skills that an ordinary mainstream school simply won’t have.
    Then there is the disruption that profoundly disabled children can have on the other children. I don’t mean children with physical disabilities – that tends to be a mechanical problem. But children with acute behavioral problems can be very disruptive to the other children in a class. Then you have to balance up the needs of the individual child with the needs of the other children.
    This is not easy stuff.

  30. Geoff Watts,

    I do appreciate the problems, especially with centralisation making even primary schools quite large, and quite frightening for the very youngest pupils.

    Yes thank you, our Grandaughter has had excellent teaching, – but only after wading through much frustrating red tape, by her parents.

    You mention that in America some schools try to integrate disabled (I use the term in its widest definition), pupils into the mainstream. Our Little Lady had most of her primary education in the US, and benefitted hugely by the experience. It was also of benefit to her classmates, as most youngsters have little exposure to Down’s folk, and to be in regular daily contact with them benefits everyone, – especially when they realise that they are really special in other aspects than just ‘needs’…

    Too true, this ain’t easy stuff.

  31. I completely agree that it is hugely beneficial for all parties that wherever possible children with disabilities are taught in mainstream schools; and that rightly is the presumption. State schools are not legally allowed to turn a child down simply because of a disability. Independent schools are free to make their own rules.
    My objection is that there was a proposal to close special schools altogether. I think that is a mistake. If a child’s needs are so profound they require such a level of intervention and support that they are in a special school, it is simply beyond an average school to be able to suport them in the way they need.

    especially when they realise that they are really special in other aspects than just ‘needs’…
    How incredibly well put.

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