Boys twice as likely to be diagnosed with special needs
Almost one-in-four boys are being labelled as suffering special needs at school, official figures show.
Young boys are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with learning impairments, behaviour problems or communication difficulties as girls, it emerged.
The disclosure – in data published by the Department for Education – will reignite concerns that schools are wrongly branding pupils with special needs as a cover for indiscipline or poor exam results.
It follows the release of data showing that boys are much less likely to pass primary school tests in the three-Rs or go on to gain good GCSE grades.
According to today’s figures, some 23.8 per cent of boys – 510,985 – were diagnosed with some form of special needs in the current academic year. This was slightly down on the 24.8 per cent labelled 12 months earlier.
But it was considerably up on instances of special needs found among girls. Figures show that just 13 per cent – 268,675 – had particular problems affecting their ability to play a full part in school life.
Most common problems included behaviour, emotional or social difficulties, moderate learning problems and speech or communication impairments.
The latest figures come amid fears that special needs are being exaggerated to explain away poor exam results or bad behaviour.
Earlier this year, Jean Gross, a former Government adviser on speech, language and communication needs, insisted that problems were often “used as an explanation for failure” at school, particularly among boys.
She said: “One third of nine and 10-year-old boys have special educational needs. It’s at that age that schools start to think they are not going to get a [pass] on their SATs, so they get labelled as having special needs.
“This is not done out of malice – schools are just trying to explain themselves. It is a real incentive to do this when schools don’t hit their floor target.”
Figures also showed that many children were being diagnosed with special needs at a young age.
It emerged that 173,525 children aged just five or under had a particular problem requiring particular attention from teachers.
This was up from 172,270 a year earlier, although this also reflected an increase in the birth rate and a growing primary school population.
The figures follow the publication of Government plans to crackdown on misdiagnosis of special needs.
For the first time, rigorous screening measures will be introduced to prevent pupils from being classed as having special needs when they have merely fallen behind or caused disruption in class.
The bureaucratic process used to identify children with the most severe special needs will also be scrapped and replaced with a single assessment covering education, health and care.