Summer-born children being wrongly classed as having special needs
CHILDREN born in the summer are being wrongly classed as having special needs when they are just young for their school year, a major Government-backed study suggests.
Research into how pupils with language and communication difficulties are taught found that children are being “inappropriately” identified as having educational impairments when there may be other explanations for why they are falling behind.
The study, which pulls together findings involving over 6,000 children, noted links between being identified as having problems and factors with no direct relation to their intelligence or academic ability.
They included whether the pupil came from a deprived background, their racial category and even what time of year they were born in.
It noted that children born in the months of May to August – the youngest in their year groups – were twice as likely to be identified as having Special Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) than those born between September and December.
The report, by educationalists in Warwick, London, Newcastle and Bristol, concluded that some children are being wrongly identified as having a learning disability.
“This suggests that teachers are not taking sufficient account of chronological age when making judgments of speech, language and communication development overe the reception and key stage one period in particular,” it concludes,
“They are inappropriately identifying children as having special educational need, when effective teaching at a universal level is more appropriate.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “This research shows that a range of factors must be considered, including when a child is born, when teachers and other professionals decide what support best suits the needs of their pupils.
“It is down to schools to judge which children need extra support.
“It’s clearly not in any child’s interest if they end up with the wrong support because they have been labelled SEN.
“We are working with experts to draw a much tighter definition so children who need the most help, get specialist provision.
“And we are putting in place much better training and targeted teaching and pastoral support to address all the complex underlying reasons which may account for children who fall behind at school.”
The report, from the “Better Communication Research Programme” also highlighted how the number of children with communication difficulties has soared in recent years, but parents are still experiencing two-year delays in getting support for them.
It said that the number of children with identified with SLCN rose by 75 per cent from 2005 to 2011.
But many of these children missed out on support during their “golden window” before the age of five when intervention is crucial, with parents experiencing delays between noticing a difficulty and getting support.