Our inclusion index is a unique attempt to give a holistic inclusion score to each LA area. The index is based entirely on public data, measuring exclusions, assessment rates, school placement, and attainment of SEND pupils. The use of public data allows the index to be regularly updated to reflect changes over time.
We hope that, by measuring inclusion across LA areas, we have raised awareness of this vital issue and empowered decision makers to focus on, and ultimately improve, the inclusion of SEND pupils.
What has our exploration of measuring inclusion revealed?
- There is substantial variation across England. Indicators vary considerably across LA areas. For example, the fixed term exclusion rate for pupils with EHCPs varies from less than 10% in many LA areas, to over 50% elsewhere. The average Attainment 8 score for EHCP pupils is as low as 5.2 in one LA area, but over 25.8 elsewhere. We hope the index starts the conversation about how to tackle this level of variation to ensure that the life chances of pupils with SEND are not decided by a postcode lottery.
- We found that deprivation is key. Higher levels of deprivation affecting children are linked to worse attainment and progress, as well as a higher rate of exclusions of SEND pupils. On the other hand, higher levels of deprivation tend to mean fewer special schools in an LA area.
- The index has uncovered a discrepancy in the proportion of SEND pupils given EHCPs. In many LA areas, over a quarter of SEND pupils are issued with EHCPs. In other LA areas, this figure is under 15%. We have seen how this radically affects exclusions, attainment and progress scores in the areas with relatively more EHCPs. By accounting for the relative EHCP cohort size, our index has partially corrected for this. The discrepancy observed may also suggest that SEN support is inadequate in some areas, leaving parents and teachers having to fight for EHCPs.
What should low ranking LA areas take from the index?
At this stage, we do not want to be prescriptive to LA areas about what their inclusion scores mean for policy. Rather, we want LA areas to use the index to better understand their own SEND cohorts, and therefore to make evidence informed policy that will best impact the educational experiences of their SEND pupils. For example, LA areas with large EHCP cohorts would normally expect to see higher average attainment of their EHCP pupils. This is because expanding the EHCP cohort is likely to involve including pupils with less complex needs. Similarly, LA areas with large numbers of special schools should consider how this impacts the size and nature of their SEND cohorts, in particular if they draw in a large cohort of pupils with severe SEND from across the LA boundary.
What can we learn from Somerset and Warrington?
The Somerset and Warrington LA areas reveal the strong impact of the EHCP cohort size and nature and of the number of special schools on the outcomes of SEND cohorts. Although the two LA areas have quite different population sizes, they have similar levels of deprivation (based on IDACI). The table below shows their scores in the inclusion index.
Warrington has a very large EHCP cohort, leading to a low assessment score. As discussed, this tends to increase average attainment. The low number of special schools means that a small proportion of these EHCP pupils are placed in these schools, giving a strong placement score.
Conversely, Somerset scores very well on assessment, with relatively few of their SEND pupils having EHCPs. This suggests that it is likely that EHCPs are given to pupils with more complex needs than in Warrington. These pupils will therefore have low average attainment and are more likely to be placed into special schools, meaning Somerset scores poorly on these measures. Compounding this is the large number of special schools in Somerset, attracting pupils with more severe needs, more likely to have EHCPs and have lower attainment.
These two LA areas demonstrate the importance of decision makers having a deep understanding of their data. It is only possible to make sound decisions if you understand what is driving scores across the four areas.
What can’t the inclusion index account for?
We know that social, emotional and mental health is the primary need of more than one sixth of the SEND cohort across England. It is therefore important to note that our index does not account for some very important outcomes for SEND pupils, such as emotional wellbeing and social development. Our desire to create an index based only on public data, and to use data covering all LA areas made this impossible.
We call on the government to collect and publish more and better data on the inclusion of SEND pupils. Specifically, encourage reporting of data on:
- Wellbeing and social development of SEND pupils. These are key outcomes for a large proportion of the SEND cohort. EHCP annual reviews should be used to record progress against non-academic development goals appropriate to each pupil.
- Off-rolling of SEND pupils to account for those who are not excluded, but are illegally removed from the school roll. We have previously recommended, in our report on post-16 SEND students, that the government mandates that excluded pupils are included in school performance measures.
We hope that, as more useful data becomes available, we can improve the index so that, over time, it becomes an increasingly accurate and useful measure of inclusion.
So, can inclusion be measured?
With our index we have shown that the inclusion of SEND pupils in education can be usefully measured, albeit with caveats. Whilst we acknowledge and discuss the limitations of public data, we believe that the data we have used to measure inclusion can empower decision makers in LA areas to better understand inclusion and make better interventions to improve inclusion. The feedback we have had so far SEND professionals suggests that the index, along with our discussion of contextual factors influencing the headline indicators, is a useful tool for LA areas. However, we encourage further feedback to ensure that the index can be further developed and become even more valuable.
The index should not be taken as a naming and shaming exercise for low scoring LA areas. Instead, we hope that it allows each LA area to better understand their own data, and to usefully put their data into context.
Our inclusion index measures the level of inclusion of SEND pupils in education over England’s LA areas. Using 12 indicators, across four key factors, the index exposes areas of relative strength and weakness of LA areas, as well as the relationships between indicators. We believe that this allows decision makers interested in improving inclusion to make better interventions to serve SEND pupils.
 Mime. London Post-16 SEND Review funded by the Department of Education and supported by the Mayor of London (March 2019)