Anti-Bullying Week: Violent Bullying of SEND children widespread in England’s schools

It's Anti-Bullying Week this week. New figures show that 40% of young people in an ongoing research study of English schools said they had been bullied in the previous year.

The catchily titled Longitudinal study of young people in England: cohort 2, wave 1 focused on the school experience of pupils in Year 9 from a range of schools across England.

The research, managed by the Department for Education, started in 2013 and aims to follow the young people through to adulthood including their choices of higher education and employment, providing a strategic evidence base about the lives and experiences of young people. Presumably "strategic" implies this will inform future government policy.

SEN & Disability = Greater chance of being bullied

It will come as no surprise to SEND parents to see that the study found young people with special needs are significantly more likely than those without SEN to have experienced all forms of bullying. This ranged from being called names either verbally or via text or social media to being threatened with or actually subjected to violence.

Sixteen per cent of the Year 9s interviewed had a disability of some kind.* 45% of parents of these children said the young person’s disability affected their ability to do their school work.

The report found that bullying was a "reasonably widespread" problem for young people with SEN with about a quarter of those with a statement or on lower levels of SEN support experiencing violence (either threats or actual violence)**

Almost a third of young people with a disability experienced name calling during the previous year while 21 per cent had suffered from social exclusion, 1 in 5 (20%) had been threatened with violence and 18% had experienced actual violence.

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Bullying and exclusion

Although bullying as a whole has decreased since the previous survey like this a decade ago, it is evident that the effects of being bullied have a more wide-ranging impact than just during the incident itself.

The research shows that young people, with or without SEND, who were regularly bullied were more likely to misbehave, more likely to truant or miss school and more likely to be excluded.

If you then reflect that the above is more likely to happen to those students who are already vulnerable and find school a difficult place, it is not difficult to extrapolate that being bullied when or because you have SEND can have a life-long impact that can further reduce the already fragile chances of a successful future.

Young carers = low income households

As well as bullying, the research looked at a comprehensive range of other factors, including how many children were young carers.

Startlingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, 10% of young people who had free school meals said they were carers, compared to 3 per cent of young people without FSM. Boys and girls were equally likely to say they were carers.

15% of young carers are looking after both a parent and at least one sibling, while 18% look after someone else, most often a grandparent.

14% of young carers said they had been late for school or left school early to provide care, while 6% said they'd missed school to provide care.

So, it would seem, that young carers are quite likely to live in low income households (presumably because their parent(s) are unable to work). They are also likely to be missing chunks of their education as well as living in stressful circumstances. It's to be hoped that this information can be used 'strategically" by the government PDQ!

I would also certainly be interested in finding out what percentage of young carers are also bullied.

The research contains many fascinating findings and if you are interested is well worth a scan through.

What's your view of the findings? Please contribute in the comments below as your experiences and opinions are important.

*More than a quarter (28%) had chest or breathing problems such as asthma, 15% had learning difficulties and 13% were on the autistic spectrum.

**The report differentiates between those with SEN and those with a disability. The latter is described as “any long-standing illness, disability or infirmity however, most young people with a disability also have SEN so I am assuming (though stand to be corrected) that a large number of pupils in the disability group would also appear in the SEN group

Tania Tirraoro
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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two sons with Asperger Syndrome.
Journalist & author of two novels and a guide to SEN statementing. PR & social media expert. Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate.
Tania Tirraoro
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