Asian Children Are 50% Less Likely To Be Diagnosed With Special Educational Needs, Here’s Why

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Our government is failing to accommodate for Asian pupils with Special Educational Needs. These students, along with their parents, are being denied the appropriate support they need.

Whilst special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have been given more attention within education over the past few years, with the SEND code of practice being released in 2014, providing guidance to schools and other authorities, and in the media with the release of Small Axe's Education, there still remains a worrying disparity when identifying these needs amongst BAME children. Asian pupils are 50% less likely to be diagnosed with SEND than White British pupils. One key reason for this could be due to the great ethnic disparity between teachers and students. In the UK, 4.4% of teachers are Asian, and 46% of schools have no BAME teachers, and in 2018, 13.8% of the population was BAME. The ethnic makeup of our schools are simply unrepresentative of the population.

Research points to the fact that there is a disconnect between teachers and parents in communicating behavioural needs within their children. Statistically, ethnic parents are less likely to ask for help from professionals due to language barriers, the stigmatisation of autism within communities and the distrust towards authority services. Therefore, potential hindrances or issues concerning a young child’s ability to learn or socialise are often not discussed within Asian communities. Despite this, there has been little academic research done into these issues. All Asian groups are also under-represented in terms of Social and Emotional Mental Health (SEMH) identification, with Asian families also under-represented in CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). Children are struggling on their own, without the support they need.

Such factors will have a great impact as these children move through the education system, especially with the announcement this summer of teacher assessed grades. Non-black teachers tend to have lower expectations of BAME students, and are more likely to negatively judge or severely discipline them. Whilst having more ethnic people in leadership positions within education can help to reduce a stigma and support children, microaggressions begin with the curriculum. Our current system is outdated with the history curriculum whitewashing over the dangerous imperialistic practices of British empire. We are taught a white, European version of history, consisting of 1066, the Tudors and a glorified version of the World Wars. Research carried out by the Guardian found that a third of British people believe countries that were colonised by Britain are, overall, better off for being colonised, and that more than 30% of people are proud of the British empire. Time and time again, the system teaches Black and Brown children that their history is not worthy enough to learn. An unrepresentative government without BAME teachers in leadership positions isolates Black and Brown students from their own classrooms, manifesting into more sinister exclusions within the workplace as they progress through life.

Reforming our education system here in Britain will not be an overnight process. It requires undoing years of colonialism and capitalism in order to tear down the structures set in place which systematically hinder Black and Brown pupils from achieving their full potential. Asian children who have SEND should not be sidelined, but rather receive the full support and guidance they need from those in power.