The practice of wrongly labelling hundreds of thousands of pupils as having special needs is to be ended.
One in five children in England — about 1.7 million — is given extra help at school, most of them with genuine problems such as autism, dyslexia and hearing problems.But ministers believe that up to 450,000 youngsters are identified as having special educational needs without justification.
It is feared that badly-behaved pupils and slow learners are being listed as special educational needs to massage league tables.The Department for Education was yesterday to reveal it is tackling ‘over-identification' by raising the threshold schools will have to meet to class pupils as special needs (Sen) cases.
The category of ‘behavioural, emotional and social development' will be overhauled to prevent abuse.
Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Studies at Buckingham University, said the special needs label has been used as an excuse by some schools for not doing their job properly.
"It's extraordinary to think that over one in five of our children is classified as having special needs," he added.
"In the recent past, diagnosis has been far too lax. If a child has been making slow progress or hasn't been behaving well the school, really without any checking, could label them as Sen."