New national data has found that children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) have dramatically different success rates across the country when learning to read, analysis by Driver Youth Trust has revealed.

  • Successful areas help eight times as many children as least successful
  • Test results reveal huge discrepancies between national regions and local authorities

The huge variations in support are revealed in the newly released results from the Phonics Screening Check.

Now in its seventh year, the check shows that schools in some areas are helping more than eight times as many children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) to learn how to sound out words phonetically than the least successful areas. Decoding is the method by which children process written words into spoken words.

The national picture shows worrying discrepancies between regions and Local Authorities.

A child with an EHCP in Inner London is 50% more likely to reach the expected standard in the Phonics Screening Check compared to a child in the North West, East or West Midlands.

The picture is more stark when comparing Local Authorities, with just 6% of children with an EHCP in Coventry reaching the expected decoding standard compared to 47% of children in Hammersmith.

Jules Daulby from the Driver Youth Trust said: “These shocking results show that effective specialist support is needed to reduce the gaps in effective support of children who struggle to read.

“Some children with special educational needs and disabilities are at a big disadvantage simply because of where they live. This national disparity in phonics scores demonstrates clearly that areas which lag behind should have effective specialist teacher support and ringfenced funding to catch up with the best.”

Children are assessed using a Phonics Screening Check in June of Year 1, when they are aged 4 or 5. This checks children’s ability to understand a list of 40 relatively simple words which indicate whether a child has begun to be able to read texts for themselves. Those who do not reach the expected standard in Year 1 are assessed a year later.

Driver Youth Trust calls for SEND learners to be given the same level of priority that is afforded to those who are socio-economically disadvantaged and for an increase in the availability and effectiveness of specialist services for those with SEND.