Neurodivergent Girls Failed by Send System – Bristol EHCP Statistics for 2022

EHCP statistics show girls with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities lag behind boys when it comes to getting support – Bristol EHCP statistics 2022 have dropped

The latest statistics for Education Health Care Plans (EHCP) have been released by the Department for Education (DfE). What is clear from the data is that there is a potential looming crisis in the disparity of support for girls with Send, who are not getting support in the same numbers as boys.

The number of overall pupils in Bristol with an EHCP is 3.6 per cent – below the England national of 4 per cent. But the number of pupils on SEN support in the city is way above the England national average. England stands at 12.6 per cent with Bristol being at 14.6 per cent.

This suggests that more pupils are on SEN support when perhaps their needs would be better met with an EHCP.

It’s not always helpful to compare EHCP statistics to England averages though. What Bristol City Council does is to measure their performance against ‘statistical neighbours’ of Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Coventry, Bright and Hove, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton, Bournemouth and Plymouth.

Compared to Bristol’s statistical neighbours, the city comes in seventh place for the percentage of pupils with EHCPs.

Southampton – 4.9
Derby – 4.7
Portsmouth – 4.5
Brighton and Hove – 4.0
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole – 4.0
Plymouth – 3.9
Bristol – 3.6
Reading 3.4
Sheffield – 3.3
Coventry – 3.3
Leeds – 2.5

When it comes to the percentage of pupils on SEN Support, it’s much higher in the rankings in fourth position.
Southampton – 15
Brighton and Hove – 14.9
Coventry – 14.9
Bristol – 14.6
Portsmouth – 14.5
Sheffield – 14.1
Plymouth – 13.7
Leeds – 13.4
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole – 12.9
Reading – 12.7
Derby – 12.4


The chart below shows all pupils in Bristol by the type of SEN provision they attend – including independent schools and hospital schools

The number of pupils with an EHCP in Pupil Referral Units (PRU) is surging and these statistics do not include pupils in other forms of Alternative Provision.

Bristol has also had a well-publicised crisis in the number of specialist places for pupils with EHCPs. The numbers of pupils attending those settings available is also surging each year.

But despite national fears about the rising cost of independent provision, the numbers aren’t stacking up in Bristol. There has actually been a huge drop in the number of independent schools with pupils with EHCPs, although this is beginning to build again – most likely due to the lack of appropriate specialist provision.

When it comes to the gender of pupils requiring SEN support and EHCPs, this starts to show a highly concerning trend both in school support and diagnosis.

The chart below shows the type of need for support and is also broken down into gender for each.


The type of need for EHCPs are as follows:
Autism – 811
Social Emotional and Mental Health – 553
Speech, Language and Communication Needs – 331
Moderate Learning Difficulty – 144
Severe Learning Difficulty – 130
Physical Disability – 103
Specific Learning Difficulty – 97
Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty – 91
Other Difficulty/Disability – 63
Hearing Impairment – 72
Visual Impairment – 30
Multi-Sensory Impairment – 7
SEN support but no specialist assessment of type of need – no data

And the type of need for those on SEN support are:
Autism – 9241
Speech, Language and Communication Needs – 2,723
Social Emotional and Mental Health – 2,206
Specific Learning Difficulty – 1,326
Moderate Learning Difficulty – 1,122
Sen Support but no specialist assessment of type of need – 405
Other Difficulty/Disability – 373
Physical Disability – 196
Hearing Impairment – 126
Visual Impairment – 68
Mutli-Sensory Impairment – 23
Severe Learning Difficulty – 20
Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty – 10

Interestingly, it’s the neurodivergent disabilities featuring communication difficulties such as autism, dominating the need for EHCPs. When it comes to SEN Support, there is little change until you see Specific Learning Difficulties surging up the list.

Worryingly is the disparity between the way neurodivergent girls are fairing in the system. They are less likely to get an EHCP for the same difficulties boys experience. They are also less likely to get Send support.

In 2021/2022, the number of autistic boys on SEN support in Bristol was 471, but the number of girls was 172. In the same year, 634 autistic boys had an EHCP with a primary need for autism, but only 177 girls had the same.

For SEMH needs in the same year, the number of boys on SEN support was 1,399 but the number of girls was 807. With EHCPs, 444 boys had an EHCP for SEMH needs but only 109 girls did.

For SLCN, 1851 boys were on SEN support for this area of need compared to 872 girls. And for EHCPs, 234 boys had an EHCP but just 97 girls had the same.

But when it came to visual impairment, 15 boys had an EHCP and so did 15 girls.

There were 61 boys on SEN support with a Hearing Impairment alongside 65 girls. For EHCPs, there were 41 boys compared to 31 girls.

When it comes to physical disability, 116 boys were on SEN support compared to 80 girls, a slightly more even split. But this changed for EHCPs, with 70 boys having an EHCP and only 33 girls.

For Specific Learning Difficulties – such as dyslexia, 695 boys had SEN support alongside 631 girls. But girls lose out again on an EHCP, with 67 boys having an EHCP compared to just 30 girls.

The overall split between genders can be seen more clearly here. In 2021/22 in total, 72.5 per cent of boys have an EHCP compared to just 27.5 per cent of girls.

For SEN support, 62.4 per cent of boys were getting help compared to just 37.6 per cent of girls.

Comparing Bristol’s numbers to its statistical neighbours on the gender split shows that this is a national issue. Girls are fairing worse with SEN support and EHCPs than boys.

The percentage of pupils on EHCPs being eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) has gone up. But there are issues around Send pupils in Bristol receiving their FSM entitlement. Those who are in independent schools, independent specialist, off rolled, missing education or in Education Other Than At School are missing their FSM entitlement.

The DfE further breakdowns EHCP and SEN support into ethnicity

When EHCP or Send statistics are released, they only ever tell part of a story. These statistics don’t show the pupils with EHCPs in alternative provision or with no school places. They don’t show the pupils in mainstream who shouldn’t be there because they are waiting for a specialist place. They don’t show the waiting times or the Quality Assurance of the plans. But they do show that girls are not experiencing education in the same way as boys, which is a disparity that must be urgently addressed.

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