One might (perhaps) expect that less wealthy areas of England would have a higher proportion of children identified as having Special Educational Needs (SEN). Not so, according to this graph on page 103 of the NHS Atlas of Variation in Healthcare (November 2011 edition):
Using a measure called Indices of Multiple Deprivation and correlating it with the proportion of primary age children with a SEN Statement, it seems that children from poorer areas are less likely to be so diagnosed.
I don't think that's a true reflection of underlying need. There's loads of children with EBD (emotional and behavioural difficulties) and pace Mr Clegg the modern pattern of disrupted family structure really doesn't tend to help them. Perhaps schools that have more such children accept the situation as "normal"; or maybe their SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) are simply overwhelmed. It's notable that primary age children are more likely to get excluded in Year 6, as the dreaded teacher-damning SATS exams draw near and the school finally decides that it can't afford to have a severely disruptive child in the group - was there really no such difficulty in the years before that?
But there are other kinds of need. Autism is an interesting case, and incidence of diagnosis is seemingly influenced by the social class of the family - an ASD (autistic spectrum diagnosis) expert in Birmingham LEA told us a year or two ago that the better-off quarters of Birmingham were yielding an ASD diagnosis rate some five times higher than in poorer areas. Perhaps it's because ASD doesn't carry the same potential stigma for the parent - it's genetic rather than a consequence of poor parenting skills - and perhaps also it's because it's a good way to attract extra attention and resources for your child (autism is a lifelong condition, unlike, er, "naughtiness").
Not that autism isn't real - I have taught autistic children all the way from mild cases down to the ones that can't or don't speak at all. But middle-class parents are (naturally) better at fighting their child's corner to get the diagnosis. And it strengthens their arm that the techniques and resources specifications in SEN statements are legally enforceable - such fun, as Miranda Hart's on-screen mum likes to say.
So in some ways the graph above is inadequate - it needs to be broken down into types of disability, and further into economic sub-divisions of the LEA (there is a world of difference between, say, Nechells and Hall Green). But even with the data aggregated in the way it is, there seem to be more questions to ask about inequalities in diagnosis and provision.