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The number of children receiving support for special educational needs (SEN) soared by almost 31,000 in the last 12 months.

The record rise - of 12.08% - meant that at the end of January there were 287,290 children with a statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care (EHC) plan, according to Department for Education data.

The increase of 30,975 on the January 2016 figure of 256,315 is the biggest rise in the last seven years and follows the increase between 2015 and 2016 when the number rose from 240,183 to 256,315. That 6.72% rise saw an additional 16,132 children receive a statement of SEN.

However, in 2016 there were an estimated 1.2 million children with SEN but without a statement of SEN.

Transfer to EHC plans

The government wants all children with existing SEN statements to be assessed and transferred from the current system onto new EHC plans by April next year.

In the year up to January 2017, 59,545 children and young people transferred from SEN statements to EHC plans - 32.7% of the children and young people with statements that were in place as at January 2016.

But there are concerns that local authorities may not be able to fully meet the April 2018 deadline for all transfers.

With a further 36,094 new EHC plans made during the 2016 calendar year, the total number of children and young people with EHC plans now stands at 175,233 and as of January there were still 112,057 children and young people with SEN statements.

Those in the 11-15 age band accounted for the largest percentage of children and young people with statements (48.6%).

In addition, the Department for Education data shows that 14,795 initial requests for an assessment for an EHC plan were refused during the 2016 calendar year, an increase of 3,860 (35.3%) from the 2015 calendar year.

Support funding

Government funding of £40m to support the transfer plan was announced by the children’s minister Edward Timpson earlier this to bolster efforts to get all children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) transferred onto the new system by the April 2018 deadline. 

The figure for 2017/18 represents a £4.2m increase on the £35.8m councils received in 2016/17 and will be supplemented by £19.1m to support work by charities to help families navigating the changes.

Councils will also be legally required to take the views of families into account when deciding on what support to offer.

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