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Children with Learning Disabilities and Special Educational Needs

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A child or young person has special educational needs and disabilities if they have a learning difficulty and/or a disability that means they need special health and education support, we shorten this to SEN (special educational needs).

A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

    • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
    • has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.

Pupils with special educational needs are classified as follows:

    • SEN Support - Extra or different help is given from that provided as part of the school’s usual curriculum. The class teacher and special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) may receive advice or support from outside specialists. The pupil does not have an education, health and care plan.

    • Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan - A pupil has an EHC plan when a formal assessment has been made. A document is in place that sets out the child’s need and the extra help they should receive.

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Reforms

The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) provisions in the Children and Families Act 2014 were introduced on 1 September 2014. An Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan now details the education, health and social care support that is to be provided to a child or young person who has Special Educational Needs (SEN). It is drawn up by the local authority after an EHC needs assessment has determined that an EHC plan is necessary, and after consultation with relevant partner agencies.

The SEND Code of Practice 2015  and the Children and Families Act 2014 gives guidance to health and social care, education and local authorities to make sure that children and young people with SEND are properly supported.

The Code of Practice highlights the clear relationship between population needs, what is procured for children and young people with SEN and disabilities, and individual EHC plans (figure 1). The JSNA considers the needs of the local community as a whole, including specific analysis of the needs of vulnerable groups including disabled children and young people and those with SEN, those needing palliative care and looked after children.

Figure 1: The relationship between population needs, commissioning and individual EHC plans

Figure 1-SEN JSNA process diagram 

Source: DfE, Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years, January 2015

The JSNA will inform the joint commissioning decisions made for children and young people with SEN and disabilities, which will in turn be reflected in the services set out in the local offer. At an individual level, services should co-operate where necessary in arranging the agreed provision in an EHC plan. Partners should consider how they will work to align support delivered through mechanisms such as the early help assessment and how SEN support in schools can be aligned both strategically and operationally. They should, where appropriate, share the costs of support for individual children and young people with complex needs, so that they do not fall on one agency.1 

Facts and figures


The Department for Education (DfE) collects information on the special educational needs (SEN) of all children in maintained schools and special schools. Children not included in these figures are those being educated at home, children educated in independent schools and children educated in profit making independent special schools. Schools are very aware of children who have particular difficulties in learning. Every term they report to the DfE about all children who have special educational needs and the sort of needs the children have. There are four categories of special educational needs: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health; and sensory and/or physical needs.

    • There were 3,957 pupils with SEN in schools in Blackpool as at January 2019.2
    • This is 20.4% of the school population and compares to 14.9% nationally.
    • There are significantly more SEND pupils across Blackpool than the national average.
    • 17.1% of pupils have SEN support and 3.3% have an EHC plan. Nationally the proportions are 11.9% and 3.1%.

Across all schools in Blackpool, the total number of pupils with special educational needs continues to rise, from 3,267 (17.1% of pupils) in 2015 to 3,957 (20.4% of pupils) in 2019. Nationally, while the number of SEN pupils has risen, the proportion has fallen from 15.4% to 14.9% over the same period. This follows a period of year on year decreases from 2010 to 2015. The percentage of pupils with SEN Support, that is those identified with special educational needs but no EHC plan, has followed this pattern.

642 pupils have an EHC plan in January 2019. This is an increase from 555 in 2018. The percent of pupils with an EHC plan has been rising slightly over the last few years. 

Figure 2: Trend in percent of pupils with SEN support or an EHC plan, England and Blackpool

Figure 2-Trend (2019)
Source: DfE, Special educational needs in England: 2019, SEN_2019_LA_tables.xls
Figure 3: Trend in number of Blackpool pupils with SEN support or an EHC Plan
  20072008 20092010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
 SEN support  -  -  4,842  4,739  4,661  4,496  4,237  3,627  2,813  2,759  2,861  3,037 3,315
 EHC Plan  571 548  486  458  455  466  461  445  454  487  543  555  642
Source: DfE, Special educational needs in England, 2019
    • Over half (56.2%) of Blackpool pupils with SEN are being educated at primary school, 31.5% are at secondary school and 12.3% are at the special schools.
    • This is very similar to the national picture where the proportions are 55.5%, 34.2% and 10.3% respectively.
    • Of those with an EHC Plan, 25% are educated in mainstream schools and 75% in special schools. This is significantly different to the England picture where 51% of pupils with an EHC Plan are educated in mainstream schools and 49% in special schools.
    • It is worth noting that the number of EHC Plans in mainstream schools fell in 2018 but has now increased again in 2019.
    • The proportion of pupils with EHC plans in mainstream school is significantly less than the national average even though there are a higher proportion identifed with EHC plans (figure 5).

Figure 4: Percent (and number) of pupils with special educational needs, based on where the pupil attends school, England and Blackpool, January 2019

  England  Blackpool   
  Primary Secondary Special Primary SecondarySpecial 
 SEN support  12.6%  10.8%  1.6%  16.8%   (2,013)  16.6%   (1,128)  0.4%   (2)
 EHC Plans  1.6%  1.7%  98.3%  0.8%   (100)  0.8%   (54)  99.6%   (461)
 Total pupils with SEND  14.2%  12.4%  99.9%  17.7%   (2,113)  17.3%   (1,182)  100%   (463)
 Source: DfE, Special educational needs in England, 2019 

Figure 5 shows that Blackpool has a significantly higher proportion of pupils with SEN support than the national average and a lower proportion of pupils with an EHC Plan within mainstream primary and secondary schools. Overall Blackpool has significantly higher levels of SEN than the national average.

Figure 5: Percent of pupils with special educational needs in state-funded primary and secondary schools

Figure 4-% pupils send (2019)
Source: DfE, Special educational needs in England: 2019

Type of need

There are four levels of learning difficulties: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health; and sensory and/or physical needs.1

    • Communication and interation - Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others.
    • Cognition and learning - Support for learning difficulties may be required when children and young people learn at a slower pace than their peers, even with appropriate differentiation. Learning difficulties cover a wide range of needs, including moderate learning difficulties (MLD) and severe learning difficulties (SLD) through to profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), where children are likely to have severe and complex learning difficulties as well as a physical disability or sensory impairment.
    • Social, emotional and mental health - Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder or attachment disorder
    • Sensory and/or physical needs - Some children and young people require special educational provision because they have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of the educational facilities generally provided.

The primary type of need is now collected for all those pupils on SEN support or with an EHC plan. There were changes to the classification of type of need in 2015: the previous code of ‘Behaviour, emotional and social difficulties (BESD)’ was removed. A new code ‘Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH)’ was introduced, although this was not intended to be  a direct replacement. The code ‘SEN support but no specialist assessment of type of need’ was also introduced in 2015. Due to the changes in coverage and classification, it is not possible to produce a direct comparison with data prior to 2015.

    • Across Blackpool, Speech, Language and Communication Needs was the most common primary type of need overall at 26.3% in January 2019. This percentage has decreased from 27.1% in 2018 when it was also the most common primary type of need.
    • Blackpool follows the national picture with speech, language and communication needs; moderate learning difficulties and social, emotional and mental health being the main types of need recorded.
    • However, the proportion of children identified with these types of need are significantly higher in Blackpool than nationally.
    • The proportion diagnosed with specific learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorder are significantly lower in Blackpool than is seen nationally.

Figure 6: Percentage of all SEN pupils by primary type of need, England and Blackpool, 2019

Figure 6-SEN by type of need (2019)
Source: DfE, Special educational needs in England: 2019

There are clear differences in the primary type of need recorded between primary, secondary and special schools. Within primary education, almost two fifths of pupils have some kind of communication need recorded as the primary reason for SEN in Blackpool. This is significantly higher than the national average of 31%. Figure 7 shows over 80% of SEN within local primary schools is made up of Speech, Language and Communication Needs, Moderate Learning Difficulties and Social, Emotional and Mental Health.

At secondary school level almost half of SEN is made up of Specific or Moderate Learning Difficulties and a further third is Social, Emotional and Mental Health or Speech, Language and Communication Needs.

As expected, the types of need recorded at the special schools is very different to those recorded for the mainstream schools. Severe and Moderate Learning Difficulties are the primary type of need for almost half of the children, more than a quarter are Autistic and 13% have a Physical Disability.

Figure 7: Percentage of SEN pupils (either on SEN support or with an EHC plan) by primary type of need, Blackpool primary, secondary and special schools, January 2019

Figure 7-% pupils by primary need-pie charts (2019)

Source: DfE, Special educational needs in England: 2019

Figure 8: Percent of SEN pupils by primary type of need, England and Blackpool, 2019

 England  Blackpool  
Pupils   with SEND         670,111         413,787         124,282 2,113 1,182 463
Specific LD 9.5 20.6 1.6 5.6 20.8 3.2
Moderate LD 20.9 22.0 12.8 23.2 27.5 22.2
Severe LD 0.6 0.5 21.6 0.3 0.0 24.0
Profound & Multiple LD 0.3 0.1 6.9 0.0 0.0 1.3
Social, Emotional, MH 16.3 19.6 12.8 21.0 24.4 5.6
Speech/Language/ Comm. 30.6 11.5 7.3 39.0 12.7 3.2
Hearing Impairment 1.7 2.3 1.1 1.3 1.9 0.2
Visual Impairment 0.9 1.4 0.7 1.1 1.4 0.4
Multi-Sensory Impairment 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.8 0.7 0.0
Physical Disability 2.8 3.0 3.4 2.7 5.0 13.0
Autistic Spectrum 7.9 10.3 29.8 3.2 2.6 26.3
Other Difficulty/Disability 3.9 5.9 1.7 1.4 3.0 0.4
SEN support  4.3 2.6 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.0
Source: DfE, Special educational needs in England: 2019


SEND Census Data 2016-2019 provides a more detailed breakdown of SEN within Blackpool  pdf  (1.2 MB)

Educational attainment of pupils with special educational needs

The data shows that attainment for Blackpool pupils with SEN is largely in line with national averages at primary level but not so good at Key Stage 4 level. This is also the picture for pupils with no identified SEN. More detailed information on achievement by SEN can be found in the School Life section.

Future provision

Population projections of the number of people predicted to have learning difficulties or autism in future are provided from Projecting Adult Needs and Service Information (PANSI). 

This shows that the number of adults under the age of 65 predicted to have a learning difficulty is expected to fall gradually as the total population in this age group falls over the next 25 years. The number of adults aged over 65 with a learning difficulty is predicted to rise over the period, in-line with the raise in the overall population of older adults.    

The population of adults predicted to be living with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) in future years is expected to grow slightly over the coming decade. It also show that ASDs are considerably more common in males than females. The group that is expected to have the largest increase in people living with an ASD is males over the age of 75.       

Local strategies

Blackpool Council SEND Strategy 2019-2021 outlines the Council's policy for SEND. pdf (1.0 MB)


[1] DfE, Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years, January 2015

[2] DfE, Special educational needs in England, January 2019 [SEN_2019_LA_tables.xls]