You can watch our video What is education like for young people with special educational needs and disabilities, which covers the main findings.
A summary of this bulletin is also available in a young person friendly version.
Young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) reflected on their needs and difficulties at school and described the strategies they use to manage their learning and emotional well-being, which included wearing headphones or sunglasses, fidgeting, doodling and accessing sensory spaces.
Unmet educational support needs were reported to result in a range of reactions from young people, including feeling angry or frustrated, and potentially distracting others, which was sometimes treated as "naughty" behaviour and met with punishment, such as isolation and exclusion.
Young participants reflected on their unique learning preferences and support needs, highlighting the importance of consulting with individuals to understand and find appropriate ways to accommodate their needs, without them feeling labelled as different.
Participants felt that schools could be more responsive to young people's needs through: providing more training to help staff identify needs and understand how best to meet them; ensuring support plans were appropriate, up to date and adhered to; being flexible around things like course load, access to safe spaces and uniforms; and ensuring teaching methods considered a range of learning styles and preferences.
Good communication and relationships between staff and pupils and their families were said to have a positive impact on young people's experiences at school; staff who displayed empathy, respect and care were described as encouraging young people to feel comfortable about asking for help, as well as being better able to understand their individual needs and adapt lessons appropriately.
Young participants, parents and carers reflected on how schools could promote inclusion, for example through school clubs and buddy systems to build friendship opportunities, recognising a range of achievements beyond academic grades, and raising awareness and understanding of needs and differences.
Parents and carers shared difficulties with navigating systems to ensure their child's support needs were met, describing stressful, lengthy, complex and inconsistent processes to access appropriate schools and support plans, and calling for greater accountability to ensure guidelines are followed by local authorities.
In October 2021, research and recommendations from the Inclusive Data Taskforce (IDTF) highlighted gaps in existing data, with evidence about children and young people often reflecting proxy views rather than their own views about their lives. Additionally, the IDTF noted that further insights should be sought into the lived experiences of children and young people, including those who are disabled.
The Department for Education (DfE) is currently undertaking a review of the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision system in England. Following a SEND Green Paper consultation on several proposals earlier in 2022, an implementation plan is expected to be published by the end of the year. As part of this, it is important to better understand the experiences of young people who will be affected by the SEND review. During early scoping work for this project, we spoke to a range of government stakeholders, academics, and disability and young people's civil society organisations. They identified the need for evidence and to hear directly from young people with SEND about their educational experiences.
School experiences may be worsening for children and young people generally, with the Children's Society Good Childhood Report 2022 (PDF, 48.4MB) noting a continued decline in 10- to 15-year-old's happiness with school. While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the education of all children and young people, those identified as having SEND may have been disproportionately negatively affected, with reduced or removed SEND support compared with pre-coronavirus pandemic provision (Then There Was Silence, Disabled Children's Partnership, 2021 (PDF, 11,196KB)). According to DfE's 2021 COVID-19 Parent and Pupil Panel (PDF, 1,094KB), 40% of parents or carers of pupils with SEND said they were unable to access support they felt their child needed. Taken together, these findings reinforce the importance of learning more about the educational experiences of young people with SEND today.
To address this evidence gap, we have undertaken qualitative research on the educational experiences, preferences and needs of young people with SEND between the ages of 11 and 16 years, including their suggestions for improvements. To understand a range of experiences, we spoke to young people attending different educational settings, including mainstream schools, special schools, residential schools, alternative provision and those in elective home education. The young people we spoke to either received Special Educational Needs (SEN) support or had an education, health and care plan (EHCP).
SEN support is provided for pupils who are identified as having SEND, whereby the school should take action to remove barriers to learning and put special educational provision in place. An EHCP is for pupils with SEND who need more special educational provision than is normally available with SEN support. EHCPs identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support required to meet those needs. DfE's 2021 to 2022 figures show that both the proportion of pupils receiving SEN support, as well as those with an EHCP, have continued to increase since 2016.
This research also considers experiences of parents, carers and education staff, and their interactions with broader SEND systems. Quote attributions in this release include alternative names selected by young participants, as well as their age group, current educational setting and support provision (EHCP or SEN support). While this research only included young people identified as having SEND, some experiences may reflect those common among all young people. For further information on methods and sample, please see Section 9: Methodology.Back to table of contents
Young participants reflected on their needs and difficulties within their educational setting and spoke in detail about the work they do to manage their learning and emotional well-being at school. Their examples suggested both resilience and self-reliance in overcoming difficulties they faced.
Awareness of self and others
Many of the young participants that we spoke to recognised and reflected on their own needs, identity and contexts, as well the needs of others. For some, disability could be both a source of frustration and a part of their identity.
However, this sense of accepting special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and SEND identity was not universal among young participants. Some preferred not to be identified as different, as expanded in Section 4: Belonging, inclusion and perceived social judgement.
Young participants demonstrated awareness of the contexts around them, which could raise challenging feelings when they believed their needs led to difficulties for others; a view parents and carers worked hard to counter.
Awareness of their own needs also made some young people conscious that all pupils, as well as teachers, may be dealing with challenges in their own lives.
They acknowledged that other pupils' needs and preferences could differ.
To manage their emotional well-being at school and avoid or minimise negative emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety, and aggression, young participants described efforts they made every day. They felt that this was not always recognised, and a lack of responsiveness to their emotional needs at school increased the need for self-management.
To improve their concentration, minimise difficult feelings and cope with aspects of the learning environment they found challenging, young participants developed a range of strategies. These included wearing headphones or sunglasses to reduce sensory overload and "doodling" to help with concentration.
"Fidgeting", often using tactile objects, was also viewed by young participants as a helpful strategy for improving concentration and maintaining calm, but it was felt that teachers could view this as distracting or disruptive.
Some young participants felt their schools helped them to manage their emotions and feel more comfortable. When they felt teachers or support staff listened and understood their strategies to cope or self-regulate, this was seen to make a positive difference to their learning and well-being. It also made them more comfortable sharing their feelings and asking for help. Additionally, being able to access safe environments, such as sensory rooms, appeared particularly important for some young people. Such spaces helped them to relax and unwind, avoid noisy or busy breaktimes, and enabled them to study without distraction.Back to table of contents
Young participants identified what they felt was going well or less well in relation to their needs being met in their educational setting. Educational needs, wants and preferences varied from one young person to the next. All participant groups felt that understanding and flexibly meeting individual young people's needs were important for them to be able to thrive within their educational setting, as was involving them in decisions relating to their educational experience. The extent to which these needs were met appeared to relate to the type of provision received, either Special Educational Needs (SEN) support or education, health and care plan (EHCP), as is discussed further in the following subsections.
Young participants described different favourite subjects, with those involving creativity and/or practical skills viewed favourably, such as art, drama, cooking, music, computing and physical education. These lessons were seen as fun, relaxing, and an opportunity for self-expression.
Young participants referred to a range of preferred learning styles, including tactile or practical, audio, and visual styles. For example, self-reported visual learners said that they preferred to learn from pictures, videos or diagrams, while others reported that more "hands on" techniques work best for them, such as doing practical lessons, learning outside or playing games. Young participants described disliking certain subjects, struggling to learn and feeling frustrated and confused when the approach to teaching a lesson and the workload did not align well with their learning style. This included too much reading and writing.
Understanding needs and adapting accordingly
Young participants described their individual learning preferences and support needs in varying detail. They appreciated flexible staff and educational settings, with time invested in understanding and adapting to individual needs. Young participants felt when this did not happen, their learning could suffer.
Learning and classroom support
When discussing ideas to make learning more accessible for pupils, the use of fun and engaging teaching methods appeared to be an important part of accommodating different learning styles and enabling learning across subjects.
Some young participants reported having additional support from teaching or learning assistants, which helped them learn at their own pace. Similarly, some described group support sessions or interventions as helpful in improving specific skills and subjects. Other forms of support mentioned by young participants included pastoral support and support from therapy animals.
Having small classes, or more staff, was seen by young participants as enabling the pace of work to be better adapted to their needs.
This was reiterated by staff and parent and carer participants, who felt a higher staff to pupil ratio was useful for providing more tailored support. However, this was described as often not possible in mainstream schools.
When describing their hypothetical ideal school, some young participants wanted different support or "extra help" and felt the support they currently receive was not sufficient or appropriate for them. When support sessions were not perceived as appropriately tailored, some were described as repetitive and "soul crushing".
A recurrent theme from young participants, parents, carers and staff was that a "one-size-fits-all" approach to support does not work when young people's needs and preferences are so varied.
Facilities and physical spaces
Young participants spoke about the value of having access to supportive physical spaces. Flexible access to "hubs" and chill-out spaces enabled pupils to take breaks when needed or access additional support. "Timeout cards" were used in some settings to enable flexible and pupil-led access to these spaces.
Young participants spoke positively about accessible facilities on-site to support their educational experiences, including lifts, ramps, swimming pools, trampolines and gyms. However, it seemed these facilities were more often available in special schools. Young participants also noted the importance of school facilities being comfortable, including comfortable chairs and controlled temperatures.
Parents and carers of young people with sensory and physical needs noted the importance of equipment being readily and freely available to meet their child's medical needs at school, such as tube feeding and toileting. Parents, carers and staff also described how having multi-disciplinary teams, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, nurses and mental health services available within a school setting made them better equipped to provide more tailored, individual support to children. Schools offering flexible timetables were described as better able to accommodate educational and medical support needs without pupils missing work.
Staff empathy, understanding needs and adapting practices
The quality of relationships with school staff was important to young people in describing their ideal school. They wanted to work with staff who were "nice", "respectful" and "friendly", who found a balance between being strict, encouraging and fun.
Familiarity and connection between staff and pupils were also valued, with young participants explaining how good communication and positive relationships with staff can have a positive impact on their experience at school.
Young participants further highlighted examples of how staff "show they care", "understand" their individual needs and make pupils feel "comfortable" at school. This was particularly noticeable when young participants spoke about requesting help from staff. Young people felt that the onus was on them to ask for help when they did not understand something, yet some said they felt "too nervous" to put their hand up. They found it easier if teachers understood this, checking in regularly and being approachable, empathetic, and encouraging.
Young participants found it challenging when teachers "cold-called" pupils, something particularly described in mainstream settings. This made them feel singled out and embarrassed, fearing judgement and bullying from other pupils if they could not answer correctly. Young participants suggested it would help if teachers told them in advance if they were planning to ask questions, giving them time to think and prepare.
Good communication between members of staff and home was also said to promote positive relationship building and improve mutual understanding, resulting in a more positive educational experience.
Regular communication of lesson content with parents and carers was described as crucial to enable them to help their child to stay caught up with coursework following school absences because of medical appointments or illness.
Parents and carers also praised help received from school staff with the EHCP or secondary school allocation processes and for contacting them to celebrate their child's achievements.
Understanding during changes and transitions
When discussing secondary school transitions, some young participants felt apprehensive about possible changes to their support. There were concerns as to whether staff at the new school would understand their needs, especially if they did not have an EHCP or more formalised support plan in place.
Opportunities to build rapport and ask staff questions were seen as important in building familiarity and confidence in moving to a new school. Young participants, parents and carers appreciated staff who made tailored arrangements for visiting and provided resources that would help aid familiarity with the new setting.
Those who moved to a new school during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic discussed missing out on usual transition activities, such as leavers' assemblies and summer holiday visits. However, some described personal arrangements that individual staff made, enabling pupils to get used to the school despite the restrictions.
The curriculum and flexibility
In discussing the curriculum across different settings, young participants, parents and carers perceived mainstream schools as offering more academic subjects linked to the national curriculum than special schools and alternative provision. This was felt by some young participants to be important for securing post-secondary opportunities. However, mainstream schools were also said to offer fewer options for practical subjects, life skills and vocational courses, which some pupils saw as more appealing and relevant to their future.
Regarding GCSE options, some young participants in mainstream schools felt forced to take subjects they did not like because of timetabling restrictions. Others felt unable to change their options after a course started, even if they struggled or had doubts about their selection. Having greater flexibility within the curriculum to cater for different needs and preferences was seen as important, and some parent and carers felt this was better accommodated in special schools.
Some staff in special schools also spoke about having more flexibility to focus on skills development, rather than having to follow the national curriculum.
Choice and involvement in decision-making
Young participants wanted to feel involved, or listened to, in decision-making around their education and were more negative about experiences when this did not happen.
Where pupils reported having choice, they felt that school was more versatile and relaxed.
All participant groups discussed ways in which pupils can be involved in decisions about their support. This included annual review meetings for those with EHCPs, and "Pupil Passport" or "My Plan" meetings for pupils receiving SEN support (see Section 8: Glossary). These meetings received mixed reviews from young participants, with some saying they found them helpful to reflect on progress and express their feelings. Others felt that they were still not heard by those making decisions about their education, support and subject options.
Young participants also discussed the importance of choice and flexibility in relation to school uniforms. Some felt there was too much regulation of personal appearance, such as rules about acceptable haircuts, coats and hats, which could restrict choice, comfort and create conflict between pupils and staff. Some young people felt that being able to choose their uniform would help them to learn better. Others, particularly those attending special schools, spoke positively about having uniform flexibility, perceived as enabling pupils to "learn better".
Young participants in elective home education spoke about this setting as offering more choice and flexibility around their education to suit their preferences. This included subjects they choose to study, what they wear and extracurricular activities they engage in. They described greater flexibility over where, when and how they learn, including being able to structure timetables around when they concentrate best and taking fewer GCSEs at a time. Parents and carers of those in elective home education described moving from a school setting in search of this greater flexibility and responsiveness to needs, and for many it was seen as the "only option left". It was noted that the decision to home-educate was not taken lightly, as it required significant time and resources from the family.
Experiences with EHCPs and SEN support
There was a sense among participants, particularly parents and carers, that having an EHCP ensured prioritisation of support and funding compared with those only receiving SEN support. Several young participants without EHCPs recalled being told they would receive support which never materialised, such as extra time in exams or one-to-one support in lessons. Parents and carers also noted that recommendations in diagnostic reports, "Pupil Passports" or "My Plans" were not always implemented.
Participants felt that this lack of support was linked to a poor understanding of pupils' needs, lack of communication from and within schools and lack of resource to implement recommendations. In some cases, those receiving SEN support described themselves as doing "OK" or "muddling through", rather than being fully supported to reach their potential and this view was shared by parents and carers.
Where staff noted funding and resources as barriers to adequate support, they also noted that pupils with EHCPs were often prioritised over pupils with SEN support.Back to table of contents
Parents, carers and staff shared their views and experiences of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) systems and processes and made suggestions for improvements. Although not necessarily part of young people's direct experiences, some young participants also perceived the system as complex.
Navigating access to support
Early identification of SEND, including through formal diagnosis and obtaining a formalised support plan, were seen as important for accessing the right support at the right time.
However, these did not always ensure young people received the support they needed. Furthermore, the process for obtaining a diagnosis and access to SEND support was described as complex, lengthy and variable across local authorities, particularly in relation to obtaining an EHCP.
Staff support was described by parents and carers as integral for successfully navigating the EHCP process. Parents and carers also described extensive efforts to ensure their child's needs were recognised, and actively advocating for their child to receive the appropriate diagnosis or EHCP. In some cases, parents and carers described developing specialist skills or knowledge to navigate the system and saw this as essential to securing the right support for their child. This required time, resources and energy, which not all parents and carers could manage.
Staff perceived that, despite increased demand for Special Educational Needs (SEN) support, funding and resource challenges meant that this was often deprioritised. In their view, this led to reduced access to EHCPs for some, and meant staff were unable to meaningfully engage in annual EHCP reviews for others, resulting in provision which was not necessarily appropriately tailored to young people's needs.
Staff described difficulties relating to the use of different EHCP formats by different local authorities, and poor quality of information provided. Additionally, particularly for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties, the EHCP process was seen as too inflexible to accommodate some young people's needs. The use of attainment targets was viewed by some as inappropriate. Parents and carers emphasised the need to focus on goals relevant to the individual, such as the degree of choice and control young people have over their environment and enrichment, rather than educational attainment.
Parents and carers described experiences of justifying and proving the need for support with SEND. Where children have more visible impairments, this was perceived as aiding access to an EHCP and other support.
Some parents and carers described having their request for an EHCP refused. This was linked to the need to prove eligibility, and not feeling heard or believed, as well as some appearing to fall outside of the system, such as parents and carers educating their child at home.
Demonstrating eligibility for a diagnosis or for additional support was said by parents and carers to be based upon children's educational attainment rather than other markers, such as poor mental health or absenteeism. Where pupils' attainment was not deemed to be sufficiently behind their classmates, parents and carers felt their child was considered not to have sufficient needs for support, despite sometimes having an official diagnosis. Parents and carers shared their frustrations with this process, with accounts reflecting support needs extending beyond educational attainment outcomes.
Diagnostic experiences beyond the EHCP
Participants described working with different agencies and services to access formal diagnoses and additional forms of support. Mental health services for children and young people were mentioned as being particularly complex and lengthy to navigate, with extensive waiting lists described.
Some parents and carers found workarounds to these systemic challenges, such as paying for assessments to obtain a diagnosis that could support the case for adaptations and provisions. Again, parents and carers noted that not all will have the time or resources to do this, leading to further inequalities for those without.
School allocation and options
For parents and carers, accessing a school that was a good fit for their child's needs was seen as crucial to helping them thrive. Obtaining an EHCP was often seen as necessary for access to the most appropriate school, with some parents and carers experiencing difficulties in accessing a school suitable for their child's needs.
Additionally, some described how local authorities made school allocations contrary to the preferences and needs identified by young people, parents and carers and/or school staff. For example, some had been allocated a school in their catchment area or linked to their child's primary school, with few appropriate options nearby, particularly in rural areas.
For those who were unhappy with the school allocation, appealing the decision was said to be stressful and draining for young people and their families. Some had to rely on support from charities, other parents and carers and developing knowledge of the system to try to "fight" school allocation decisions.
Towards systemic solutions
Parent, carer and staff participants suggested systemic changes they felt may enable greater flexibility and more effective support to meet diverse needs.
Participants felt that the EHCP process would benefit from greater accountability to ensure local authorities follow guidelines, and improved inter-agency communication.
Staff suggested that the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) could set more appropriate criteria and standards of practice for SEND provision to ensure greater consistency and compliance. Mainstream school staff also suggested that the SEND department and pupils with SEND should be included in Ofsted school inspections, and that criteria to achieve a "good" or "outstanding" assessment must include strategies for SEND provision.
Staff participants felt it important to have access to regular specialist training relevant to their work, such as communicating using signs and symbols. They described limited availability and funding for training and limited time to complete it. Some suggested mandatory training for all staff and improving networks across SEND provisions to facilitate knowledge sharing and skills development.
Parent, carer and staff participants felt additional staff could ease the burden on a stretched workforce, while noting the lack of resource to realise this ambition. Challenges with staff retention and burnout were also described. Some staff suggested that higher salaries for teaching assistants and SEND support staff could boost recruitment and morale, which they felt would improve the services provided to children and young people.
This research has provided a snapshot of the educational experiences of young people with SEND, and highlighted what participants found helpful and positive within current provision, as well their own suggestions for improvements. Young people with SEND have a diverse range of individual educational experiences, needs and preferences. Understanding and flexibly accommodating young people's needs and preferences within their educational setting could optimise their learning and overall well-being.Back to table of contents
Educational experiences of young people with special educational needs and disabilities in England: Sample information
Dataset | Released 7 November 2022
Sample information for qualitative research on the educational experiences of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in England.
In this research, we use the terms young participants to refer to the 11- to-16-year-olds with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who took part in the research.
We use the term "parents and/or carers" to refer to participants who are aged 18 years and over and provide care for an 11- to 16-year-old who has been identified as having SEND. We use the term "staff" to refer to participants who work with young people with SEND aged 11 to 16 years in some educational capacity in their day-to-day employment.
Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
According to the Department for Education's (DfE's) 2015 SEND Code of Practice (PDF, 3.2MB), SEND refers to a child or young person who has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for them. The code of practice outlines four broad areas of need which are:
communication and interaction
cognition and learning
social, emotional and mental health difficulties
sensory and/or physical needs
We aimed to speak with young people identified across the broad areas of need to ensure we were speaking to participants with a wide range of views and experiences. In practice, many young participants had been identified as having multiple areas of need.
Special educational needs (SEN) support
If a child or young person has been identified as having SEND, SEN support should provide reasonable adjustments relating to their broad area(s) of need. Schools are expected to provide the child or young person with support through the SEN support system outlined in the SEND Code of Practice, and to put in place reasonable adjustments and take positive steps to ensure pupils can fully participate in the education provided.
Pupil Passport or My Plan
Some local authorities and schools use the terms Pupil Passport, My Plan or Pupil Profile to identify and share vital information about pupils and their needs where an education, health and care plan (EHCP) is not in place. Their purpose is to provide a summary of reasonable adjustments for pupils receiving SEN support that should be reviewed together with young people.
Education, health and care plan (EHCP)
Where the needs of children and young people with SEND cannot be met by SEN support, they may require an education, health and care plan (EHCP), which will be decided by the local authority. The purpose of the EHCP is to identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs.
In this research, we refer to education setting as the location where young people receive their education. This includes mainstream schools, special schools, alternative provision, residential schools and those in elective home education.Back to table of contents
From February to May 2022, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) conducted 62 in-depth interviews with 11- to 16-year-olds with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and with 64 parents and carers, as well as focus groups with 23 members of staff across England with the support of the National Association for Special Educational Needs (nasen). nasen is an independent charity that exists to connect and support those working with children and young people with SEND.
Interviews with parents and carers took place on the telephone and lasted approximately 30 minutes. Interviews with young participants lasted approximately 60 minutes and mostly took place in schools, with some interviews held online through Microsoft Teams. Staff took part in one of four online focus groups lasting 90 minutes.
Approach to sampling and recruitment
Staff participants were recruited by a professional independent recruitment agency and were purposively selected to ensure participants in a range of roles, educational settings and regions were included. Gatekeepers included 20 schools and three parent and carer networks across England. Gatekeepers were approached to support with the recruitment of young people with SEND and their parents and carers.
A maximum variation purposive sampling approach was used to include a wide range of young people and parent and carer perspectives and experiences relating to education. The sampling criteria used for the selection of young people in this research included the following:
areas of SEND
support provisions (EHCP or SEN support)
age ranges (11 to 13 years and 14 to 16 years)
This approach was used to enable exploration of how different characteristics and circumstances may shape the educational experiences of young people. Further details of the planned and achieved samples can be found in our accompanying dataset.
Design and materials
We consulted a steering group of expert academics, disability and children's civil society organisations and parents and carers to develop the research design and materials. Methods and materials for young participant interviews were designed by nasen with feedback from a Youth Expert Panel of 13 young people with SEND aged 11 to 16 years attending a range of educational settings.
A flexible approach to data collection was taken to suit the needs of individual young people, using a toolbox of creative methods, including drawings, timelines and Lego play. This enabled young people to freely discuss what was most important to them, including what is going well, areas for improvement and suggestions for their ideal school.
An ongoing assent process was followed, which included reaffirming young people were happy to participate and using "traffic light" cards, which could be presented freely if young participants wanted to pause or terminate the interview. At the end of the interviews, all young participants were asked to indicate which alternative name, or pseudonym they would like to represent them, which have been used throughout the bulletin.
Approach to analysis
Interviews and focus groups were audio recorded with participant and parent or carer consent and then transcribed verbatim. Where participants did not want to be recorded, detailed notes were taken. Transcripts were analysed thematically using coding to identify themes, patterns and concepts within participants' accounts. Initial interview transcripts were coded using open, descriptive coding, with initial codes being organised into a coding framework. Young participant, parent, carer, and staff transcripts were initially coded separately, then the coding was combined under the same thematic framework. This formed the basis of continued analysis in NVivo 12 qualitative data analysis software, with codes being further developed and adapted as analysis developed. Findings were constantly compared within and between cases to test and explore initial themes, and differences were actively sought.Back to table of contents
The main strengths of this research are:
qualitative research design enabled a more detailed understanding of how young people experience their education, what is important to them and what they feel could be improved to help them in future
including parents, carers and staff in the research ensured a better understanding of the broader context within which young people's views are situated
parents, carers and staff could also provide views and experiences of processes that they were involved in that were not necessarily part of young people's direct experiences but had a bearing on their education
interview approaches were tailored by offering the use of creative methods, and fidget or stimulatory tools, to better meet young people's preferences, and to try to maximise accessibility, rapport-building and participant comfort during interviews in this one-encounter approach
the recruitment and sampling strategy achieved a spread of participants from local authorities across England, and from different types of educational setting, which enabled a breadth of participant experiences and accounts
support from the Youth Expert Panel on the design of the research materials and questions, and from the steering group throughout, ensured appropriacy and relevance, maximising the potential benefit and minimising potential risk of harm
The main limitations of this research are:
there were limited opportunities for some young people with sensory and/or physical disabilities to engage in some of the creative methods, such as drawing or building Lego
while we actively sought to include children and young people with a wide range of support needs, we encountered challenges of involving those with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and those who are minimally verbal in this one-encounter, time-limited approach; we recognise that more work needs to be done to ensure greater accessibility of research to all
although the recruitment approach achieved the desired sample, as with a lot of research with children and young people, it was heavily reliant on gatekeepers such as schools and other networks to identify and recruit eligible participants, which will unintentionally have excluded some from participating
generalisability of the research findings are limited to the concepts presented by participants, which may be specific to contexts or settings, and may change over time
This publication represents the outcome of a collaborative effort. The Centre for Equalities and Inclusion Qualitative Research Team are grateful for the expert advice, contributions and assistance provided by many people throughout this project. Most notably, our Youth Expert Panel, the Council for Disabled Children's FLARE group and our steering group.
Our steering group comprised Elly Chapple (CanDoElla and Parent), Rachael Graham (Sense), Andrew Harper (Family Fund), Cath Lunt (Disabled Children's Partnership), Janice McLaughlin (Newcastle University), Gareth Morewood (SEND Consultant), Ruth Moyse (University of Southampton, AT-Autism and Parent), Alexandra Turner (The Children's Society) and Emma Williams (University of Surrey).
We would specifically like to acknowledge the help provided at important stages of the project by:
Janice McLaughlin and Katrina Rose - Newcastle University
André Imich and Wendy van-Rijswijk - Department for Education
Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 7 November 2022, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Educational experiences of young people with special educational needs and disabilities in England: February to May 2022
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 1633 455773