Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Ethnic disproportionality in special education: evidence from an English population study

By Steve Strand and Geoff Lindsay


Differences in the proportions of students identified as having special educational needs (SENs) across ethnic groups have historically been of concern in the United Kingdom and the United States. However, the absence of student-level data has hindered investigation of the reasons for such disproportionality. The authors present an analysis of the 2005 Pupil Level Annual School Census for 6.5 million students aged 5 to 16 years in England. Logistic regression analyses were completed to calculate the odds ratios of having identified SENs both before and after adjusting for the influence of age, gender, and socioeconomic disadvantage (poverty). Poverty and gender had stronger associations than ethnicity with the overall prevalence of SENs. However, after controlling for these effects, significant over-and underrepresentation of some minority ethnic groups relative to White British students remained. The nature and degree of these disproportionalities varied across categories of SENs and minority ethnic groups and were not restricted to judgmental categories of SENs. \u

Topics: LC
Publisher: Sage
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2005). Achievement of Black Caribbean pupils: Good practice in Lambeth schools. doi
  2. (2005). Audit of local performance compared with standards recommended by the national guidelines for aetiologic investigation of permanent childhood hearing impairment. Child Care, doi
  3. (2003). Bias in problem solving and the social process of student study teams: A qualitative investigation. doi
  4. (2006). Challenging underachievement in boys, doi
  5. (1985). Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Children from Ethnic Minority Groups
  6. (2006). Current population reports, p60-231, Income, poverty and health insurance in the United States
  7. (2002). Disability in children from ethnic populations. Child Care, doi
  8. (2006). Disability justifies exclusion of minority students: A critical history grounded in disability studies. doi
  9. (2003). Disparities in the prevalence of disability between black and white children. doi
  10. (2000). Disproportionate representation in special education: A synthesis and recommendations.
  11. (2006). Disproportionate representation of African American pupils in special education: Acknowledging the role of white privilege and racism. doi
  12. (2004). Disproportionate representation of minority students in special education: Academic, demographic and economic predictors. doi
  13. (1998). Does the Black White test score gap widen after children enter school? In
  14. (1999). Ecological inference and the ecological fallacy. doi
  15. (2005). Education and Skills doi
  16. et al (2004). Moving towards equity: Addressing disproportionality in special education in Indiana.
  17. (2007). Ethnic group, sex and economic disadvantage: Associations with pupils' educational progress from baseline to the end of key stage 1. doi
  18. (1991). Ethnic minority and gender distribution among staff and pupils in facilities for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties in England and Wales. doi
  19. (1999). Ethnic representation in special education: The influence of school-related economics and demographic variables. doi
  20. (2006). Ethnicity and education. London: DfES. Available of the world wide web at: [accessed 27th
  21. (2006). Evaluation of Aiming High: African Caribbean achievement project. RR801. Nottingham: Department for Education and Skills.
  22. (2005). Families affected by deafness: Hospital services uptake in a multiethnic population. doi
  23. (1995). Health and social characteristics and childrens cognitive functioning: Results from a national cohort. doi
  24. (2006). House of Commons Education and Skills Committee
  25. (1971). How the West Indian child is made educationally subnormal in the British school system: The scandal of the black child in schools in Britain. London: New Beacon for the Caribbean Education and Community Workers'
  26. (2004). Intractable self-fulfilling prophecies: Fifty years after Brown v. doi
  27. (2001). Learning difficulties and ethnicity: Report to the Department of Health. London: Department of Health.
  28. (2000). Minority ethnic exclusions and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act
  29. (2007). Minority ethnic pupils in the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England.
  30. (2002). Minority students in special and gifted education.
  31. (2007). Needs and Disability Tribunal doi
  32. (1998). Overrepresentation of minority students: The case of greater specificity and reconsideration of the variables examined. doi
  33. (2004). Parental involvement in childrens education. Research report RR589.
  34. (1996). Poverty and child health. doi
  35. (1998). Predicting placement in learning disabilities programs: Do predictors vary by ethnic group? Exceptional Children, 64, Audit Commission.
  36. (2000). Prenatal and postnatal risk factors for mental retardation among children in Bangladesh. doi
  37. (2002). Proportion of LD placements associated with low socioeconomic status: Evidence for a gradient? doi
  38. (2001). Race and ethnicity and the identification of special needs children.
  39. (2006). Race, class and disproportionality: Reevaluating the relationship between poverty and special education placement. doi
  40. (1990). Race', ethnicity and education: Teaching and learning in multi-ethnic schools. London: Unwin Hyman Ltd. doi
  41. (2002). Racial disparities in the identification, funding, and provision of special education.
  42. (2001). Reasons for exclusion from school.
  43. Research report 851/2007.
  44. (2002). Socioeconomic and ethnic group differences in self reported health studies and use of health services by children and young people in England: Cross sectional study. doi
  45. (2002). Special education or racial segregation: Understanding variation in the representation of Black students in educable mentally handicapped programs. doi
  46. (2006). Special educational needs and ethnicity: Issues of over- and under-representations. Research report RR757.
  47. (2005). SPSS14.0: Advanced statistical procedures companion.
  48. (2007). Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic minorities.
  49. (2006). The context of minority disproportionality: Practitioner perspectives on special education referral. doi
  50. (2004). The use of effect sizes: Two examples from recent educational research. In
  51. (2005). Unproven links: Can poverty explain ethnic disproportionality in special education? doi
  52. (1995). Variation in the influence of selected sociodemographic risk factors for mental retardation. doi
  53. (2006). Why are so many minority students in special education?. doi
  54. (2005). Within-group diversity in minority disproportionate representation: English language learners in urban school districts. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.