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Findings and recommendations

Young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs welcome support from peers and regard schemes that promote support between students as especially valuable.

The young people involved in the ‘What about us?’ project told us that they found support from adults very helpful. But sometimes they did not want adults around because it made them stand out as being different from everyone else. The young people we spoke to liked to have help from other students (or ‘buddies’) – and they liked to help others too.

Young people told us that it was great to have an older student to show them around when they had just arrived at a new school or college. Their buddy could tell them how to find the rooms they needed to be in and what they needed to take with them. A buddy would also know who to see if there was a problem.

We also saw examples of buddy systems working during ‘link’ experiences before school students actually arrived at college. In these initiatives, college students invited school students into college and acted as guides during the visits. In one case, the college linked new students up with young people who had previously been students in the same school.

Some young people had good experiences of being helped in lessons or activities by other students. Young people told us that they feel more included when they work with someone else. When young people work as a team, each person can do what they are good at – and help other people with things they find difficult.

We suggest:

  • Schools and colleges should initiate and maintain peer support or ‘buddy’ schemes
  • Young people should be enabled to support one another, in particular, in preparation for and during times of transition.
  1. University of Cambridge
  2. Big Lottery Fund
  3. Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
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