Research and analysis

Ethnic disproportionality in the identification of speech language and communications needs (SLCN) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD): 2005 to 2011

This report presents an analysis of the Department for Education's national school censuses completed in January 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 to consider the issue of ethnic disproportionality in the identification of special educational needs (SEN). It looks at the overall prevalence of SLCN and ASD, how these rates have changed over time, and any factors that may be associated with their identification.


The Better Communication Research Programme (BCRP) was commissioned as part of the Better Communication Action Plan, the government’s response to the Bercow review of services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.

There has been a long standing general concern about the progress and achievement of some minority ethnic groups in England and one element within the general concern has been the specific issue of disproportionate representation among pupils designated as having SEN.

This study seeks to determine whether these patterns of disproportionate representation are still present in the most recent data, whether the patterns can be explained in terms of other factors associated both with SEN and ethnicity, such as poverty and socio-economic disadvantage, and to what extent disproportionate ethnic representation varies across local authorities.


  • Background
  • What we did
  • What we found
  • Conclusions and policy implications
  • Appendices