Are there too many kids with SEN? Exploring the factors that influence over-identification

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


There is no doubt that there are some children with severe and complex special educational needs. However, there is also an increase in the number of children with milder difficulties who are being classified as having SEN. These children would previously have been seen as part of the normal spread of ability and taught within the mainstream classroom. Over-identification can impact negatively on a child’s perception of themselves as a learner, lowering expectations and leading to lowered educational outcomes. At the same time, it intensifies the use of scarce resources and takes this away from whole class teaching and from those who need the resources to meet their complex needs.

Drawing upon experiences as a practitioner registered educational psychologist, government statistics, anecdotes from practice and research projects, our own research data and publications from others in the field, this talk will explore some of the reasons why too many children are being identified as having SEN. The concept of SEN is messy and easily stretched and bent and this has implications for research. Can we really be sure that we are talking about the same thing in different research projects? As the X Files character Mulder said, “Trust No One! The truth is still out there”. What is the truth and what things may stop us from getting at it?
Period5 Apr 2017
Event titleSarah Fielden Public Lecture
Event typeConference
LocationInstitute of Education, University of ManchesterShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal


  • Inclusion
  • SEND
  • Special Educational Needs