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Findings and recommendations

The ‘extra curricular’ parts of the day in school or college can be particularly stressful for young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs – for them, the whole day is important.

Many of the young people we spoke to during the ‘What about us?’ project were reasonably happy with the way their lessons in school or college worked.

Lessons provided a structure so that the young people felt they understood what they had to do or were confident that they could ask for support when they needed it. The young people knew there were adults around to help them and to make sure other students did not take advantage of them.

Young people told us that they found it more difficult at other times in the school or college day. Some young people felt worried or anxious between lessons, for example, when moving around the building. At these times, schools and colleges were often very busy. Corridors and other spaces could be crowded or noisy and young people felt that they might be pushed or rushed. They told us how frightening it was to be on the stairs at busy times.

Break times were another part of the school or college day that could be difficult. Some young people did not know what to do at break times. Some of them said they did not have anywhere to go, or friends to be with.

Playgrounds, social areas or common rooms were often not seen as good places to go, because young people felt they might get picked on or teased.

A lot of the young people told us that they brought a packed lunch instead of getting a meal at school or college. Sometimes this was because they did not like going to the canteen or dining hall. These places could be very busy and people felt too rushed. Sometimes young people felt that it was difficult to carry a tray or to work out money when there were other people hurrying them. Sometimes there was nowhere to sit. Some young people would have liked to have adults around in case they needed some help at lunchtimes.

Some young people worried that they would be bullied or picked on when they were out of the classroom. Sometimes the sense of their vulnerability to the potential threat of such things happening caused a lot of stress for young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs.

We suggest:

  • Secondary schools and colleges should follow policies and implement practices designed to foster the social and emotional wellbeing of students through the whole day
  • Secondary schools and colleges should provide staffing and develop and sustain practices that support students moving between taught sessions and during break times and meal times.
  1. University of Cambridge
  2. Big Lottery Fund
  3. Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
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