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Findings and recommendations

Insights from learners are powerful, original and important – young people can provide high-quality and innovative proposals for improvements in provision on a range of levels.

With frequent opportunities and the right support and encouragement, the young people we met during the ‘What about us?’ project grew in enthusiasm and confidence in sharing their thoughts and ideas. By the end of the project, all the young people we met were keen to share their views. They were pleased to be asked – and they wanted their ideas to be heard.

They told us about what was good about school or college, about what was not so good and about what they wanted to change. The young people had powerful and original ideas about how to change things for the better.

Often the views of young people were different from those of the adults. They gave us ‘insider views’ of schools and colleges. They told us what it felt like to be a student at their school or college – whether they felt they belonged there or they felt left out.

Their views and experiences were valuable because they told us what school or college was like from the students’ perspectives – and not what staff or managers thought it was like.

We helped the young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs involved in the ‘What about us?’ project to develop their ideas into plans for research, action and development – and then to put these plans into practice.

By the end of the project, all the young people we met had developed useful ideas for making their schools and colleges better – and many of them had brought about significant changes at a range of levels.

The schools and colleges involved in the ‘What about us?’ project had learnt to value the contribution that young people can make to institutional development.

Some of their ideas, plans and achievements are set out in the rest of this section and in the case studies that accompany it. We hope these contributions will inspire further improvements in other settings.

We suggest:

  • There should be structures that enable schools and colleges to ask young people for their views – and that enable young people to put their views forward for consideration
  • Young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs should be consulted so that their views can drive improvements in schools and colleges.
  1. University of Cambridge
  2. Big Lottery Fund
  3. Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
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