Following our analysis of exclusions, in part 2 of this series, we next look at how Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) assessments affect our overall inclusion index. You can read a short summary of this article below.
An EHCP is a legal document describing a pupil’s SEND, a support plan and target outcomes. If a school or parent feels the needs of a pupil are not being met under SEN support, an EHCP can be applied for through the local council and, if awarded, they give schools access to additional funding to support these pupils. Our index looks at the percentage of all SEND pupils (i.e. those with either SEN support or an EHCP) in each LA area’s schools who have an EHCP in order to produce an assessment score.
LA areas where a lower proportion of the SEND cohort have EHCPs are given higher inclusion scores. There are two reasons for this.
- To control for inconsistent issuing of EHCPs between LA areas. Larger EHCP cohorts tend to have higher average attainment. We argue that this is because the criteria for an EHCP may have been ‘lowered’, therefore including more able pupils in the EHCP cohort compared to other LA areas.
- Strong SEN support systems are a sustainable and inclusive way to meet the needs of SEND students. A lower proportion of SEND pupils with an EHCP could suggest that the SEND cohort is relatively well served under SEN support.
In this article we provide an overview of the landscape of EHCP assessment rates across England. We explore the effect of deprivation on assessment rates, and also discuss the implications of differing assessment rates on the overall inclusion index. We show that it is crucial for decision makers to understand how the relative size of their EHCP cohort affects their SEND data more generally.
Variation in EHCP assessment rates
Figure 1- Assessment rates by region (2019)
Figure 1 shows that the percentage of SEND pupils who have an EHCP varies hugely, between 7% in Newham, and 30% Warrington and Southend-on-Sea. Even within each region, the rates of EHCP assessment are very variable. Given the extent of this variation, it is likely that this is a result of differing practices and policies, rather than a genuine difference in characteristics of SEND cohorts.
We explore the implications and causes of this variation below.
Assessment scores across England
The interactive map below allows you to explore EHCP assessment data for each LA area in England. Hover over an LA area on the map to see its average EHCP assessment data over the last three years. The overall assessment score is calculated out of 100.
Figure 2- Interactive map of assessment scores
We can see that this map looks quite different from the overall inclusion index map in part 1 of our series of posts; while the assessment indicator is part of the overall inclusion score, it only represents one-twelfth of the total. The LA areas highlighted as having the highest assessment scores are very different from those with the highest overall inclusion scores. Notably, Somerset, the lowest scoring LA area overall, has the third highest assessment score in England. Figure 3 confirms this inverse relationship between assessment scores and the overall inclusion score at the regional level.
Figure 3- Average scores of the LA areas in each region for assessment versus overall inclusion
Scores out of 100
The regions scoring most highly for assessment do not score well in the overall index. This is particularly noticeable in outer London, which has the highest overall inclusion score, but the lowest assessment score (i.e. the highest proportion of the SEND cohort with EHCPs). The South West and East Midlands are the second and third highest scoring regions for assessment, but two of the lowest scoring on the overall inclusion index.
A similar pattern can also be seen at the LA area level:
Figure 4- Highest scoring 10 LA areas for assessment
Figure 5- Lowest scoring 10 LA areas for assessment
Eight of the highest scoring ten LA areas for assessment have an overall inclusion score under 50, while five of the lowest scoring ten have overall inclusion scores over 50. This strongly suggests that the assessment indicator is inversely correlated with the others in the index. Why do areas that score highly on assessment score poorly in other parts of the inclusion index?
We explored two explanations for this inverse relationship between assessment scores and overall inclusion scores:
- The cohort effect: Smaller cohorts have greater levels of need on average
- The impact of deprivation: Deprivation is correlated to smaller EHCP cohorts as well as lower attainment and higher exclusions rates.
1. The cohort size effect: Smaller cohorts have greater needs on average
We explored how the assessment rate impacts on other indicators in the overall index and found a relationship between assessment rates and EHCP attainment scores.
Figure 6 shows a positive correlation between assessment rates of EHCPs and average attainment scores in both KS2 and KS4 i.e. the more SEND pupils given EHCPs, the higher their average attainment. We argue that this is because LA areas with relatively large EHCP cohorts have included pupils with less severe needs in the cohort. The inclusion of these students pushes up average attainment and progress.
Figure 6 – Correlation between EHCP assessment and key stage 2 and key stage 4 attainment
NB. The percentage of SEND pupils with EHCPs is based on the overall cohort, rather than the specific key stage
The larger an EHCP cohort as a proportion of all SEND pupils, the better their average attainment scores. LA areas that assess more pupils as needing EHCPs are likely to include pupils who do not have such severe SEND and are more likely to have higher attainment scores. Given attainment scores make up a large proportion of the overall inclusion index, it is therefore not surprising to see those doing well on assessment with lower scores overall.
While the relationship is weaker, a similar relationship can be found between the EHCP cohort size and fixed term exclusion rates of EHCP pupils. This further suggests that larger cohorts are including pupils with less severe needs and helps further explain why the LA areas with smaller EHCP cohorts have lower scores in the overall index.
Key finding: The relative size of the EHCP cohorts should be considered when assessing results for EHCP pupils at school and LA level. Larger cohorts tend to have higher average attainment.
2. The impact of deprivation on EHCP assessment, attainment, and exclusion
Deprivation also appears to have some impact on EHCP assessment rates. We used IDACI (income deprivation affecting children index) scores to measure deprivation. A higher score indicates a higher level of deprivation. Figure 7 shows that more deprived areas tend to issue EHCPs to a smaller proportion of their SEND cohort. We split LA areas into three groups according to their deprivation as measured by 2019 IDACI scores. We found that the most deprived 50 LA areas had an average of 19.9% of their SEND cohort issued with an EHCP, in contrast to the least deprived LA areas, which had an average of 21.5% of their SEND cohort with an EHCP.
The chart below shows the relationship between deprivation and the proportion of SEND pupils who have an EHCP. The size of each bubble reflects the 0-24 year old population of the LA area.
Figure 7 – Deprivation and assessment rate
Two London LA areas noticeably buck this trend. Tower Hamlets stands out as, despite being the LA area with one of the highest levels of deprivation, it has a much higher than average proportion of SEND pupils with an EHCP. At the other extreme, neighbouring borough Newham has the lowest percentage of SEND pupils with EHCPs in the country, despite a lower level of deprivation than Tower Hamlets.
The trend for more deprived areas to give out fewer EHCPs is a concern since research shows that that SEND is positively linked to deprivation, meaning we would expect to see the opposite relationship. There are many possible conclusions to draw from this but, from our own experience working with schools and local councils, we believe this may be explained by parents and teachers in more deprived areas being less likely to successfully lobby for EHCPs than those in more affluent areas. In more affluent areas, parents are more likely to have private assessments carried out, hire law firms to support applications and make appeals to tribunals. This is demonstrated by the difference in the rate of appeals to the SEND tribunal. In the most affluent third of LA areas, there was an average of 3.72 appeals per 10,000 0-24 year olds. In the most deprived areas, this figure was 2.76.
Key finding: Deprivation levels in an LA area may impact the size of the EHCP cohort.
What does this mean for inclusion?
- EHCPs may be being inconsistently issued across England
- When considering inclusion, the size of the EHCP cohort must be considered. Areas with relatively fewer EHCP pupils should expect to see relatively low average attainment. This may not mean that EHCP pupils are doing badly, but rather show that only those pupils with the most severe SEND are included in its EHCP cohort
- More deprived areas give out fewer EHCPs. Local authorities should consider how their EHCP application processes may disadvantage those from more deprived areas and what impact this has on the nature of their EHCP cohort.
Next in the inclusion series, we look at the school placement of EHCP pupils.
- There is variation between LA areas in the proportion of SEND pupils who are given EHCPs
- Our index scores LA areas where relatively few SEND pupils have EHCPs as more inclusive. This is partly to control for the effect that increasing the size of the EHCP cohort has on typical EHCP cohort attainment and exclusions
- More deprived areas tend to have relatively smaller EHCP cohorts.
Understanding the relative size and nature of an EHCP cohort is crucial to properly interpreting data about EHCP cohort outcomes.
- 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: File 11: upper-tier local authority summaries
- Income Deprivation Among Children (IDACI)
- Based on resident population