Academic year 2022/23

Special educational needs in England

This is the latest data
UK statistics authority quality mark
Published
Next update
Last updated
See all updates (1) for Academic year 2022/23
  1. Grammar/spelling correction

Release type

Introduction

This publication combines information from the school census (state-funded schools), school level annual school census (independent schools) and general hospital school census on pupils with special educational needs (SEN). 

The publication includes breakdowns by type of SEN provision, type of need, age, national curriculum year group, gender, ethnicity, English as a first language and free school meal eligibility.

Local authority data on EHC plans is published in the Education, health and care plans publication. That data covers all children and young people up to age 25 with EHC plans, and includes those not captured in this publication in non-maintained early years provision, further education, home education or not in education, employment or training.


Headline facts and figures - 2022/23

Over 1.5 million pupils in England have special educational needs (SEN)

An increase of 87,000 from 2022. Both the number of pupils with an education, health and care (EHC plan) and the number of pupils with SEN support have increased:

  • The percentage of pupils with an EHC plan has increased to 4.3%, from 4.0% in 2022.
  • The percentage of pupils with SEN but no EHC plan (SEN support) has increased to 13.0%, from 12.6% in 2022.

Both continue a trend of increases since 2016.

The most common type of need for those with an EHC plan is autistic spectrum disorder and for those with SEN support is speech, language and communication needs

Explore data and files used in this release

  • View or create your own tables

    View tables that we have built for you, or create your own tables from open data using our table tool

  • Data catalogue

    Browse and download open data files from this release in our data catalogue

  • Data guidance

    Learn more about the data files used in this release using our online guidance

  • Download all data (ZIP)

    Download all data available in this release as a compressed ZIP file

Additional supporting files

All supporting files from this release are listed for individual download below:

Pupils with special educational needs in schools

Pupils with special educational needs (SEN) are currently classified as follows:

SEN support

SEN support means support that is additional to, or different from, the support generally made for other children of the same age in a school. It is provided for pupils who are identified as having a learning difficulty or a disability that requires extra or different help to that normally provided as part of the school’s usual curriculum offer. A pupil on SEN support will not have an education, health and care plan.

Education, health and care (EHC) plans

A local authority may issue an Education, health and care plan for a pupil who needs more support than is available through SEN support. This will follow a statutory assessment process whereby the local authority considers the pupil’s special educational needs and any relevant health and social care needs; sets out long term outcomes; and specifies provision which will deliver additional support to meet those needs.

Independent schools

Guidance on how independent schools are advised to record pupils with special educational needs is available in section 2.5 of the School level annual school census.

The number and percentage of pupils with SEN has continued to rise

The percentage of pupils with an EHC plan has increased to 4.3% in 2023, continuing a trend of increases since 2016. Prior to this, the rate had remained steady at 2.8%. This is in line with local authority data on the number of EHC plans. 

The percentage of pupils with SEN support has increased, from 12.6% to 13.0%, continuing an increasing trend from 2016.

Number of pupils with an EHC plan has increased by almost two-thirds since 2016

The number of pupils with an EHC plan has increased by 9% between 2022 and 2023 to almost 390,000, and by a total of 64% since 2016. The number of pupils with SEN support has increased by 5% from 2022 to 2023, to 1,183,000 and by a total of 19% since 2016. Over the same period, the total pupil population increased by 6%.

Pupils with an EHC plan made up one quarter (25%) of all pupils with SEN in January 2022. 

Local authority data on EHC plans is published in the Education, health and care plans publication. The data covers all children and young persons up to age 25 with EHC plans, and includes those not captured in this publication in non-maintained early years provision, further education, home education or not in education, employment or training.

The number of pupils with an EHC plan has increased across all school types 

  • In primary, 2.5% of pupils have an EHC plan and 13.5% have SEN support
  • In secondary, 2.4% of pupils have an EHC plan and 12.4% have SEN support
  • In state-funded AP schools, 25.5% have an EHC plan and 57.0% have SEN support
  • In independent schools, including independent special schools, 4.9% of pupils have an EHC plan and 15.2% have SEN support

The largest increase in EHC plans was in primary, with an additional 12,000 pupils with plans since 2022.

The number of pupils with an EHC plan in state-funded AP schools has increased, however the percentage of pupils with an EHC plan has decreased from 28.2% to 25.5%. This is driven by larger increases in the number of pupils in state-funded AP schools with SEN support or no SEN.

The percentage of all pupils with an EHC plan who are in mainstream schools (state-funded primary and secondary) has increased from 51.4%  to 52.7% in 2023. The number of pupils in special schools continues to rise, the percentage of all school pupils with an EHC plan who attend state-funded special schools has dropped from 39.4% to 37.9%. These trends continue patterns seen since 2018.

Primary type of need

Primary and secondary type of need are recorded in the school census and are available for state-funded nursery, primary, secondary and special schools, non-maintained special schools and state-funded AP schools. Data on type of need is not available for independent schools or general hospital schools and these are not included in totals in this section.

The most common type of need among pupils with an EHC plan is autistic spectrum disorder (ASD)

Almost one in three pupils with an EHC plan are identified with a primary need of ASD (116,000 pupils). 

The most common type of need among pupils with SEN support are speech, language and communication needs

The primary need identified for 278,600 pupils was speech, language and communication needs. This is followed by social, emotional and mental health needs (229,700 pupils) and moderate learning difficulty (189,400 pupils) 

These trends are similar to previous years.

Pupil characteristics

Information on the characteristics of pupils with SEN are recorded in the school census and are available for state-funded nursery, primary, secondary and special schools, non-maintained special schools and state-funded AP schools. Data is not available for independent schools or general hospital schools and these are not included in totals in this section.

SEN is most prevalent at age 10

The percentage of pupils who have SEN support increases with age, reaching a peak of 15.7% of pupils at ages 9 and 10. This then steadily declines through secondary ages, to 12.4% at age 15. 

The percentage of pupils with an EHC plan also increases with age, from 3.3% at age 5, up to a later peak of 5.3% at age 11 before slowly declining to 4.7% at age 15.

SEN continues to be more prevalent in boys than girls

72.4% of pupils with an EHC plan are boys, and 62.8% of pupils with SEN support are boys. Both of these rates have been slowly decreasing in recent years

The percentage of all pupils eligible for free school meals has increased sharply since the introduction of transitional protections which will continue to be in place during the roll out of Universal Credit. This has meant that pupils eligible for free school meals on or after 1 April 2018 retain their free school meals eligibility even if their circumstances change. In January 2023, the percentage for all pupils was 23.8%, compared to 22.5% in 2022, 20.8% in 2021, 17.3% in 2020, 15.4% in 2019 and 13.6% in 2018.

Pupils with SEN are more likely to be eligible for free school meals

41.1% of pupils with an EHC plan and 37.5% of pupils with SEN support are eligible for free school meals in 2023. This compares to 23.8% of all pupils in schools.

Pupils with SEN have higher rates of first language being English than the general school population

84.3% of pupils who have SEN support and 84.3% of pupils with an EHC plan have a first language known to be or believed to be English. This is unchanged from the previous year, and compares to 79.3% of all pupils in schools. 

SEN is most prevalent in the Traveller of Irish heritage ethnic group

25.5% of pupils recorded as Traveller of Irish heritage ethnic group (1,760 pupils) had SEN support in 2023, and a further 6.1% had an EHC plan (418 pupils). The lowest rate for SEN is in the Chinese ethnic group, 4.9% of pupils in this ethnic group had SEN support (2,891 pupils) and 2.1% had an EHC plan (1,223 pupils). These groups are largely unchanged from 2022. 

SEN units and resourced provisions

SEN  units

SEN units are special provisions within a mainstream school where the pupils with SEN are taught within separate classes for at least half of their time. Units:

  • are designated by the local authority specifically for making SEN provision, and sometimes accommodate pupils registered at other schools on a part-time basis
  • receive funding of £6,000 or £10,000 per place, and usually top-up funding for any additional costs of support required by individual pupils
  • cater for a specific type or types of SEN (for example autistic spectrum disorder)
  • are usually for pupils with an EHC plan (but may also provide support for pupils with SEN support).

Schools should only use this indicator where the SEN unit has been formally recognised as such by the local authority where the school is located.

Resourced provision

Resourced provisions are places that are reserved at a mainstream school for pupils with a specific type of SEN, taught for at least half of their time within mainstream classes, but requiring a base and some specialist facilities around the school.

Resourced provisions:

  • are designated by the local authority specifically for making this kind of SEN provision
  • receive funding of £6,000 or £10,000 per place, and usually top-up funding for any additional costs of support required by individual pupils
  • cater for a specific area or areas of SEN (for example specific learning difficulties)
  • are usually for pupils with an EHC plan, but could include pupils with SEN support.

Schools should only use this indicator where the resourced provision has been formally recognised as such by the local authority where the school is located.

Most pupils placed in units will have an EHC plan. It is unlikely that a child would be placed in a unit and also receive support from resourced provision, but a school could have resourced provision for one type of need and a unit for another.

Following an exercise to investigate and improve the quality of data on SEN units and resourced provisions, additional validation checks on the recording of these provisions were introduced into the data collection from 2020. This has resulted in significant changes to the data series and as a result comparisons to previous years are not recommended. Full information on SEN units and resourced provisions is available in the school level underlying data file that accompanies this release.

Number of SEN units and resourced provisions has remained stable

The school level data shows that in January 2023, there were 373 schools in England with SEN units, a slight decrease from 377 in 2022, and 1,125 schools with a resourced provision, the same number as in 2022.

User feedback

We would like to know more about our users and would encourage and welcome any feedback on how the data is used. Comments on any issues relating to this publication are also welcomed and encouraged. If you would like to be involved in future user engagement consultations then please do get in touch. 

Please email us at: sen.statistics@education.gov.uk

Help and support

Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

National statistics

These accredited official statistics have been independently reviewed by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). They comply with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics. Accredited official statistics are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

Accreditation signifies their compliance with the authority's Code of Practice for Statistics which broadly means these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.

You are welcome to contact us directly with any comments about how we meet these standards. Alternatively, you can contact OSR by emailing regulation@statistics.gov.uk or via the OSR website.

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about Special educational needs in England statistics and data:

Special educational needs statistics team

Email: sen.statistics@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Sean Gibson

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

Opening times:
Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays)