At Mime, we are passionate about helping improve the life chances of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). This has been driven by years of extensive work with educational data that impacts children and young people, especially those from vulnerable groups. Most notably, this can be seen in our recent Post-16 SEND Review for the Mayor of London. An area of huge importance to us is inclusivity and equality. All young people deserve the same access to a fulfilling education in order to fulfil their potential.
To clarify, SEND is a term for children and young people with a wide range of educational support needs, from autism to dyslexia to physical disabilities to mental health disorders. If a child or young person has complex SEND they may be issued with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). This gives schools access to additional funding.
Many SEND pupils, especially those with more complex needs, move to special schools to receive specialist provision, which in many cases is absolutely necessary. However, there has been a move over the past couple of decades to improve inclusion within mainstream schools. We feel that this is a positive step for the majority of SEND students and their non-SEND classmates – everyone benefits from increased inclusivity within the learning environment. We are now moving into an important time for the education community as Ofsted are introducing a keener focus on inclusion, for example through greater scrutiny of off-rolling.
However, DfE data suggests that, if anything, we are becoming a less inclusive country. The percentage of pupils with EHCPs attending secondary mainstream schools decreased by 8% between 2010 and 2018, as the proportion in special schools increased. Young people with SEND are also five times as likely to be excluded as those without SEND, and this rate has increased in each of the last three years. And research suggests that efforts made towards improving inclusion are being undermined by a combination of policy changes, funding of private places by local councils and increasing incidence of exclusions and off-rolling of SEND pupils.
Can inclusion be measured?
This post, the first in our Inclusion Series, outlines our exploration of a prospective way of measuring inclusion at the local authority (LA) area level. This is absolutely not an attempt to name and shame – we recognise that there is a complex array of interconnecting factors that influence inclusive practices, and how performance data can appear at first glance. Instead, the main aim of this series of articles is to learn and share. Ultimately, we want to investigate whether it is feasible to use data to measure inclusive practices, and what the quirks and caveats are in attempting to do so. We very much welcome feedback on how we have built the index and suggestions on how to refine and develop it further.
So, how did we attempt to measure inclusion? We first ranked LA areas using 12 published indicators that we feel are the best currently available to help measure inclusive practices. We then used these ranks to form an overall inclusion “index” score out of 100, with a higher score suggesting more inclusive practice. Where available, we used data over the three most recent years published.
The indicators we have used span assessment, placement and outcomes. We recognise that SEND is a highly complex area, covering a wide range of needs, but we think these indicators are the best currently publicly available to give us an overall sense of inclusivity. The indicators used are as follows:
- Exclusions: Fixed-term and permanent exclusion rates for SEND pupils. LA areas with low exclusion rates score better in our inclusion index.
- Assessment: The percentage of SEND pupils with an EHCP. We give LA areas with a smaller proportion of EHCP pupils a higher inclusion score: this is primarily to offset the fact that LA areas with smaller EHCP cohorts tend to have students with more complex needs and this negatively affects their attainment and exclusion scores. It also suggests that they may be more able to support their SEND pupils under SEN support (i.e. without the need for an EHCP).
- Placement: The percentage of pupils with an EHCP that are in mainstream provision, rather than independent or specialist provision. We give LA areas where mainstream providers are more able to support SEND pupils a higher inclusion score. However, we recognise that some young people with severe SEND will need specialist provision since it can be challenging for mainstream providers to provide support for pupils with complex needs. Accordingly, this placement data makes up a relatively small proportion of our overall index.
- Attainment and progress: Academic attainment and progress scores across primary and secondary school for pupils with an EHCP. We consider LA areas with better attainment and progress scores for SEND pupils to be indicative of more inclusive practice since it suggests that the schools in the area are able to support the EHCP cohort effectively. However, we recognise that the specific nature of the EHCP cohort in an LA area can have a large effect on attainment scores and therefore on the inclusion score we have given. This will be explored in detail in later blog posts and is also reflected through the assessment indicator (above).
Hence, in our index a high scoring LA area would be one whereas many SEND pupils as possible were supported under SEN support in a mainstream school with no exclusions, and pupils with more complex needs who required an EHCP had good attainment and progress. More detail on how the index was created is provided in the Method section at the end of this article.
In this blog series, we have taken an in-depth look at each of the individual indicators and explored some of the factors that influence inclusivity and how it can be measured. We look at the drivers behind high and low scores on each of the indicators, and consider the other information that needs to be taken into context when using data to measure inclusion. There may be reasons that contribute to higher and lower scores that aren’t actually attributable to attitudes towards inclusion and inclusive practices.
- Our initial findings indicate that at a regional level, London (inner and outer) has the highest average inclusion score
- The three LA areas with the highest inclusion scores according to our index are in London: Westminster, Barnet and Kingston upon Thames
- The region with the most consistent improvement (over the last three years) in inclusion score is Yorkshire and the Humber. Outer London, the North West, and the South East have also noticeably improved
- At the other end of the scale, Somerset, Torbay, and Staffordshire emerged as the LA areas with the lowest inclusion scores according to our index.
Regional level analysis
The following regional level analysis provides a quick snapshot of the regions that appear to be doing well and those where further work on inclusive practices could be beneficial. We have calculated regional inclusion scores from the averages of each region’s LA areas, weighted by the size of the 0-24 population.
Figure 1: Regions by their average inclusion scores
(100 is the best possible inclusion score at an LA area level)
Based on our index, LA areas in outer London on average have the highest inclusion scores, followed by LA areas in inner London and then Yorkshire and the Humber, though there is a noticeable gap between London (inner and outer) and the next two regions. The West Midlands has the lowest average score. When digging further into the data we noticed some interesting patterns in terms of the variation in inclusion scores within each region which are discussed next.
Figure 2 – List of regions with corresponding LA areas
The boxes represent the LA areas in each region and the colours indicate each LA’s overall inclusion score. Hover over a box to see the LA name and score.
Looking at the colours of the boxes, we can see a wide variation within each region. For example, in Yorkshire and the Humber, the median LA area is Doncaster which has an inclusion score of 49.1 out of 100. Their best performing LA area, East Riding, had the 8th highest inclusion score in the country of 70.0, in contrast to North Lincolnshire which had a score of 37.8 (see figure 3).
Figure 3 – Overall inclusion scores of LA areas in Yorkshire and the Humber
Turning to inclusion scores in the two London regions, we find high scores in the capital. Figure 4 shows that six of the top ten LA areas with the highest inclusion score nationally are in London, and all but two London boroughs are in the top 50% scoring LA areas. However, it is noticeable that Enfield performs poorly on our measure. It has a score of 40.2 out of 100 despite being in outer London which has the highest average at a regional level. When looking more closely at the data, the key reason for Enfield’s relatively poorer performance is their poor EHCP attainment; Enfield has one of the lowest Attainment 8 for EHCP pupils in London and is in the bottom 20 nationally. Enfield also scores in the bottom 25 for the proportion of 16/17 year olds with an EHCP who are NEET. Some possible factors that explain lower attainment scores will be explored in later articles in this Inclusion Series.
Since SEND policies are not implemented on a regional level, we might not expect to see such a consistent pattern of inclusion within London. However, factors such as diversity, funding, geography, availability of provision and even attitudes towards inclusion may be causing a London-specific effect.
Figure 4 – Overview map of all LA areas coloured by inclusion scores
The map below shows the overall inclusion scores calculated for all LA areas in England. Hover over a local authority on the map to see the scores for each of the categories of indicator (placement, attainment, exclusions and assessment).
Regional trends over time
Figure 5 – Average inclusion scores for the LA areas in each region over the last three years of available data
Note that due to delays in when some of the datasets used are released, not all indicators in the index use 2019 data (see Method section for more information)
Yorkshire and the Humber has shown the most consistent improvement in inclusion score, up more than three index points over the three years. Interestingly, a key source of Yorkshire and the Humber’s improvement has been a relatively low rate of issuing EHCPs compared to other regions. The relationship between how the proportion of SEND pupils with an EHCP affects performance on other indicators will be discussed in our blog post on assessment. LA areas in Yorkshire and the Humber have also seen improvements in exclusion scores and small improvements in their placement scores.
Highest and lowest scoring LA areas
The tables below show the ten most inclusive and ten least inclusive LA areas based on our overall index.
Figure 6 – List of LA areas in England with the highest inclusion scores
Westminster’s overall high performance is mainly due to their performance in the attainment category, especially progress and attainment in primary schools. For example, an average of 28% of their EHCP cohort achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths over three years at key stage 2, which was the highest LA area nationally. This is also noticeably higher than the other nine LA areas on this list. There are four outer London LA areas in the top ten, two in Yorkshire and the Humber, and two in inner London.
Figure 7 – List of LA areas in England with the lowest inclusion scores
Five of the lowest scoring ten LA areas are in the South West. Somerset comes out with the lowest inclusion score followed by Torbay although there is a noticeable gap between Somerset’s score and the others on this list. Somerset has particularly high levels of exclusions, for example, an average fixed term exclusion rate of EHCP pupils of 34.5% over the three years, one of the highest rates in the country. Interestingly, they have one of the lowest EHCP assessment rates in the country: an average of 12.6% of their SEN cohort have an EHCP. The size and nature of the EHCP cohort does appear to have a strong effect on the indicators we used in the index and we will discuss this in more detail in later blog posts.
Discussion of method
The detail of the method used to create our index is provided below. Though several published data sources were used to build this indicator, clearly other factors such as school policies and staff and pupil attitudes towards SEND pupils are relevant when assessing inclusivity of LA areas and their schools. However, this information is hard to access in the form of data.
As noted above, the scores in our index can be affected by factors outside of attitudes towards inclusion, and we explore some of these in later articles. These factors include the volume and nature of special schools in a local authority (LA areas with particular specialist providers could have a significant influx of pupils with more complex needs) and the demographic context of the LA area. We will also explore how the proportion of SEND pupils assigned EHCPs has a marked effect on the outcomes of the EHCP cohort as a whole.
It’s also worth noting that, due to the number of indicators included, we have weighted exclusions and attainment (outcomes) more in this index than other categories, however this could be changed in future versions of the index based on the feedback we receive.
This is our attempt at measuring inclusion from publicly available data, although in the future, subject to the relevant permissions, it may be possible to incorporate data from the National Pupil Database to make the index more sophisticated. In the meantime, we would love to get your feedback on other approaches and insights into this topic.
This article has provided a high-level overview of an approach to measuring inclusion, but there is much more to learn and understand. The subsequent articles in the inclusion series explore each of the indicators that form the overall index, to understand the factors that influence scores. Click here to have a read of the next article which drills down into exclusions data.
- Rate of children and young people (CYP) with EHCPs who are permanently excluded
- Rate of CYP with SEN but without EHCPs who are permanently excluded
- Rate of CYP with EHCPs with fixed term exclusions
- Rate of CYP with SEN but without EHCPs with fixed term exclusions
For exclusions, we look at those with more severe SEND (i.e. young people with EHCPs) as well as those with less severe SEND (without EHCPs). A school has control over the exclusions they issue so this is a good indicator of inclusive practice for both SEN support and EHCP pupils. For both permanent and fixed term exclusions, higher rates suggest less inclusive practice and correspond to lower scores in our inclusion index.
- Percentage of CYP with SEND who have an EHCP
LAs with a small proportion of SEND pupils with an EHCP have a higher inclusion score in our index. This is primarily to offset the fact that LA areas with bigger EHCP cohorts tend to include students with less complex needs and this can improve their attainment and exclusion scores. We are, in a sense, recognising the LA areas who have been able to perform well in attainment or exclusions scores given their smaller cohort size.
- Percentage of CYP with EHCPs that are studying in state-funded special schools (this includes maintained special schools, academy special schools, and specialist post-16 institutions)
- Percentage of CYP with EHCPs studying in non-maintained special schools or independent schools (this includes independent mainstream schools, independent special schools, and non-maintained special schools)
In our index, we have given higher scores to LA areas with a low percentage of EHCP pupils studying in special schools, including non-maintained or independents. This is because this suggests they are able to support SEND pupils in mainstream settings. However, since some young people with more complex needs will always need specialist provision, these placement indicators make up a relatively small proportion of our overall index (see weightings below).
Attainment and progress indicators
- CYP with EHCPs achieving the expected level in reading, writing and maths (RWM) combined at key stage 2
- Progress score for key stage 2 RWM (average) for CYP with EHCPs
- NB: Data is only available for 2017 and 2018
- Key stage 4 average Attainment 8 score per pupil for CYP with EHCPs
- Key stage 4 average Progress 8 score per pupil for CYP with EHCPs
- Percentage of 16/17 year olds with EHCPs who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) post key stage 4
- NB: Data is only available for 2018 and 2019
We have included educational attainment and progress for pupils with an EHCP as an indicator of how well they are developing in schools and as such, high attainment scores correspond to higher scores in our inclusion measure. We have included Attainment 8 rather than EBacc attainment since the latter has a lot of suppressed data due to small sample sizes and focusses on a narrow curriculum not always appropriate for SEND pupils. We focus on EHCP pupils rather than SEN support pupils as there is more of a consistent benchmark with regards to who has an EHCP; since schools often have a lot of discretion over which pupils are categorised with SEN support there is a wide variation in levels of ability of SEN support pupils between schools. It should be noted that some LA areas have distinctive features like some regional special schools that draw in EHCP pupils with complex needs from other boroughs; this generally lowers their attainment and therefore their overall inclusion score.
There are other limitations to using published attainment and progress data. For example, this data is not available for CYP in independent and non-maintained special schools. And, importantly, the progress for pupils with severe learning difficulties who may operate below the level of the national curriculum is not recognised. These pupils may make progress in schools in other ways, such as independence or social skills, but this data is not reported consistently.
Producing an overall inclusion score
We ranked each LA area according to each indicator for up to three years where data was available out of 150 LA areas (not including Isle of Scilly and City of London whose data is often suppressed). We then created an overall rank which averaged their ranks for each of the indicators and then re-based this as an overall inclusion score out of 100. Each individual indicator was given the same weighting, so each category has a different weighting in the overall inclusion measure, proportionate to the number of indicators:
- Exclusions: 4 indicators (33% of overall score)
- Assessment: 1 indicator (8% of overall score)
- Placement: 2 indicators (17% of overall inclusion score)
- Attainment and progress: 5 indicators (42% of overall score)
When making comparisons at a regional level, we multiplied the LA area value by the population for each LA to calculate a weighted score.
- Section: Permanent and fixed-period exclusions in England: Underlying data
- Same data source used for 2017/18, 2016/17, and 2015/16
- Based on school population
- Section: Special educational needs in England – January 2019: local authority tables, table 15
- Same data source used for 2019, 2018 and 2017
- Based on school population
- Section: Statements of SEN and EHC plans: England, 2019 – national and local authority tables
- Same data source used for 2019, 2018 and 2017
- Based on resident population
Attainment and progress
- Section: National curriculum assessments: key stage 2
- Same data source used for 2018, 2017 and 2016
- Based on school population
- Section: GCSE and equivalent results, including pupil characteristics
- Same data source used for 2018, 2017 and 2016
- Based on school population
- Same data source used for 2019 and 2018
- Based on school population
 Ellis, Simon. Special Educational Needs and Inclusion. 2008, Special Educational Needs and Inclusion. Pg 33 https://www.nasuwt.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/ddacdcb2-3cba-4791-850f32216246966e.pdf
 International bodies have stated that ‘…those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within a child centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs.’ UNESCO 1994: 8
 “Ofsted: Nearly 10K off-Rolled Pupils Disappear from School System.” Tes Teach with Blendspace, Tes, 4 Dec. 2018, www.tes.com/news/ofsted-nearly-10k-rolled-pupils-disappear-school-system.
 The Guardian view on special educational needs: segregation is not the answer. The Guardian, March 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/18/the-guardian-view-on-special-educational-needs-segregation-is-not-the-answer
 “SEN support” is a term used since the SEN reforms in 2014. It covers intensive and personalised intervention required to enable a SEND pupil to be engaged in learning, without the need for an EHCP.
 We used a population weighted inclusion index for regional level analysis to account for the fact that LAs are different in size and population density (more detail in method)