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Findings and recommendations

Young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs need designated 'safe places', activities or sources of support to use during stressful parts of the school or college day.

The young people we spoke to in the schools and colleges involved in the ‘What about us?’ project told us that they wanted somewhere safe to go at break times and lunchtimes.

We heard this story both in the schools and colleges that already provided a ‘safe place’ and in the sites that did not make this kind of provision.

The young people told us that they wanted places where they could choose to be with other young people like themselves. They wanted places that were calm and quiet – places where they could relax and take time out, talk to friends or listen to the radio. They liked the idea of having adults or staff around – in case they needed help or someone to keep a check on the behaviour of other students.

The young people said that they wanted to be able to go somewhere where they felt safe when they were out of class. They wanted an opportunity to get away from the noisy hustle and bustle of busy school or college corridors, canteens, playgrounds and common rooms.

Some young people said they felt stressed and anxious at break times when they had nowhere safe to go.

Several of the schools and colleges we worked with during our project made big changes to their environments to address these concerns.

  • One college is working to provide a common room that young people can use.
  • One school is lobbying to improve its year group social areas.
  • Another school opened up its library area and set up supervised activities for students during break times.

The students in another school came up with a group plan to develop a social area of their own. They designed, negotiated resources and built a social garden area near their teaching area. This has been so successful that their school has decided to build more social areas – and to use the young people as researchers and consultants again.

We suggest:

  • Secondary schools and colleges should provide designated 'safe areas' and/or supported activities for the use of young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs
  • These safe areas should be available to young people particularly at break times, lunchtimes and in study periods. Staff should be available in these areas so young people can ask for support should they require it.
  1. University of Cambridge
  2. Big Lottery Fund
  3. Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
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