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Black pupils wrongly identified as having special needs

DISPROPORTIONALITY: Black Caribbean children are twice as likely than their white peers to be identified as having special educational needs

BLACK CARIBBEAN pupils are twice as likely to be identified as having special needs, a new study has found.

Researchers from Oxford University found that black Caribbean pupils were over-represented in moderate learning difficulties when compared to their white British peers. Children with moderate learning difficulties have great difficulty keeping up with the curriculum.

The report, titled Ethnic disproportionality in the Identification of Special Educational Needs (SEN) in England: Extent, Causes and Consequences, found that black Caribbean and mixed white and black Caribbean schoolchildren were classed as having social, emotional and mental health needs at double the rate of white British pupils.

Socio-economic factors such as poverty and community deprivation was considered, but even when these factors were taken into account, the research still found ethnic disproportionality existed.

Professor Steve Strand, department of education at Oxford University, author of the report, said: “While ethnic disproportionality for some special needs, like moderate learning difficulties (MLD), can be accounted for by socio-economic background and early attainment/development on entry to school, this research indicates that neither factor explains the ethnic disproportionality in the identification of ASD [autistic spectrum disorders] or SEMH [social, emotional and mental health].”

As a result of being regarded as having special educational needs, black pupils are subjected to a simplified curriculum, which is less challenging and reduces expectations of their capabilities.

Strand said: “The upshot is that some Asian pupils may not be receiving the access to specialist resources and support they need with autistic spectrum disorders, while some Black Caribbean children may be suffering an inappropriate or narrowed curriculum from unwarranted over-identification, particularly in secondary school.”

The study, which looked at children aged 5-16, comes after concerns were raised over the process of special education referral and the disproportionate representation of ethnic minority groups with special education needs.

The research incorporated in-depth analysis of the England National Pupil Database and looked at the period 2005-2016 and more than 6 million schoolchildren.

It also includes reports on the identification rates of all 150 local authorities in England. In Newham, black Caribbean pupils were less likely than their white British peers to be deemed to have SEMH needs, whereas in Kensington and Chelsea, they were three times more likely to be.

However, differences between local authorities were not found to be a huge factor behind disproportionality.

Similar research has previously been conducted in the US but this is the first time such research has taken place in the UK.

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