Trajectories and transitions in the cognitive and educational development of disabled children and young people

Lead Research Organisation: London School of Economics & Pol Sci
Department Name: Social Policy

Abstract

This project brings together academics from the Institute of Education (IOE) researchers from the National Children's Bureau (NCB) and campaigners and policy-oriented practitioners from NCB's Council for Disabled Children (CDC) to develop our understanding of disabled children's cognitive and educational development in England in order to inform policy in relation to disabled children. It does this using two major studies of children and young people, which have followed their experience through early childhood and adolescence.

The Millennium Cohort Study has traced children born in 2000-2001 since they were nine months old, surveying their families when they were babies and visiting them again when they were aged 3, 5 and 7. The Longitudinal Study of Young People in England first surveyed a cohort of children in year 9, when they are were aged 13-14 and revisited them annually up till the age of 20/21. This analysis focuses on the surveys either side of the end of compulsory schooling, i.e. at age 14/15 and at age 16/17.

The research has four main aims. First it engages with the question of what constitutes child disability looking at different definitions and measures, including children defined as having special educational needs (SEN). It looks at the overlap between different measures as well as at how much variation there is between children classified as disabled. It uses this information to group children by disability status, which is used in the rest of the study. It will also investigate the extent to which disabled children are adequantley represented in nationally representative longitudinal cohort studies. This element will enhance our understand the prevalence of disability at different ages, and according to different measures, which is informative for policy. It will also reveal the suitability of existing studies for disability research and how that might be improved.

Second, the study explores the family backgrounds of disabled children, how these differ from non-disabled children in terms of risk factors such as living in a workless family, living in poverty and so on, and how this varies at different ages, both within and between the two studies. This helps us to understand the extent to which disabled children are more likely to be in disadvantaged families and the extent to which that increases (or decreases) as they grow older. This can inform identification of the circumstances of disabled children and hence potentially their support needs.

Third, it looks at trajectories of cognitive ability, given that disabled children and non-disabled children typically have different starting points. It investigates whether disabled children experience patterns of development that are comparable to those of non-disabled children, or whether their difficulties increase over time, and, indeed whether there are typical trajectories, given the varied nature of the disabled group of young people. This helps to identify the extent to which policy for and practice in support and intervention for disabled children facilitates their development or whether they are at risk of falling behind during the school years relative to how they start off.

Finally, it examines the extent to which disabled children have different educational outcomes and aspirations for continued participation in education following the end of compulsory schooling compared to non-disabled children, given the point they have reached by year 10 and their performance at key stage 3. It looks at factors which make a difference to their post-compulsory outcomes and that may be supportive of greater participation or better post-compulsory school outcomes.

The project will be informed by the perspectives of disabled young people themselves, both in the design and interpretation of research and will be disseminated in policy briefings and an open meeting as well as through more academic routes.

Planned Impact

The proposed research will generate impact among academics, disabled children and young people, practitioners, policymakers and funders. The research findings have the potential to change our conceptual understanding of what supports, experiences and environments affect disabled children and young people's lives, and will be instrumental in influencing policy and practice development. The findings may also build capacity among funders of research to consider new ways of including disabled children and young people in large surveys.

It will do this through the collaboration between the Institute of Education and National Children's Bureau (NCB), with NCB leading on most of the dissemination and impact activity. Specifically, in addition to the academic beneficiaries discussed above, the research will impact on a range of non-academic beneficiaries. It will impact on disabled children and young people directly through their participation in the research process, which will involve the two sessions with young people from NCB's Young Research Advisors (or a comparable group); and indirectly through the implications of the findings. The Young Research Advisors will also co-produce (with members of NCB) a young person's research summary and will assist in its dissemination. We will also provide accessible research updates to inform disabled children and young people of the project's progress.

It will impact on organisations and practitioners working in universal and specialist services through their increased knowledge on disabled children and young people's development and what supports maximise their development. They will be reached in a number of ways including:
-The NCB members newsletter, which reaches 10,500 member contacts across the children's sector
-The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) Digest, which reaches over 800 member contacts and CDC's 50 member organisations
-NCB's member organisations' existing communication channels and information updates, such as the -Children's Society Disability Update, MENCAP Viewpoint, Allfie - Inclusion Now and Participation Works
-Press releases and social media updates from IOE's and NCB's communications officers
Research outputs will include a roundtable with senior CDC Council members.

It will impact on policymakers through their increased knowledge on disabled children and young people's development. This will be achieved through a research briefing aimed at ministers and policymakers highlighting the policy implications and recommendations stemming from the research. CDC is Strategic Partner for SEN and Disability to DfE, which includes developing capacity and support within the sector and providing expert, professional advice to DfE. Using this link, we will ensure that DfE receive regular updates on the research and they will be invited to attend and speak at events and the roundtable with senior CDC Council members. We can provide a bespoke seminar to key DfE officials; and can feed in directly to DfE via the DfE-funded Centre for the Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT).

It will impact on funders through better understanding of the limits and possibilities of general purpose research studies to understand disabled children and young people's development. This will be achieved through reporting mechanisms currently in place that will be used to report back to funders on the research and its implications. Stakeholder events relating to future sweeps of the MCS and to other funded data resources will also provide an opportunity to discuss the implications of the research for instruments and for the future conduct of longitudinal data collection. The impact on funders is likely to be in the longer-term vis-a-vis the availability of funding for new surveys of disabled children and young people or more consideration of how to minimise attrition for families of disabled children and young people.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/K00302X/1 01/01/2013 01/09/2013 £150,875
ES/K00302X/2 Transfer ES/K00302X/1 01/09/2013 30/11/2014 £88,952
 
Description Trajectories and Transitions of Disabled Children and Young People
The research was concerned to address whether childhood disability was linked to family socio-economic disadvantage, and whether, given differences in family background and context disabled children and young people faced different patterns of progression through education, even given that they were likely to start from different points. That is, it set out to investigate disabled children's eduational Trajectories and their educational Transitions. In addition, through the progress of the research, and prompted by discussions with our research partners, the Council for Disabled Children and with input from groups of disabled young people, we also investigated bullying risks among disabled children and the development of behavioural difficulties in the early years. We therefore ended up meeting more research objectives than we had originally specified. The work initiated under this project has since been extended and developed in work carried out under the ESRC-funded Cross Cohort Research Programme.

Focusing on England, we used two large-scale nationally representative longitudinal studies, the Millennium Cohort Study, covering ages nine months to 7 years, and the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, covering young people aged 13/14 to age 19/20.

In discussion with the Council for Disabled Children, we developed and employed three broad overarching measures of disability, which showed some degree of overlap, but also identified different children. These were developmental delay measured at around nine months, long-standing limiting illness, which approximates to the legal definition of disability and special educational needs (SEN) with or without a statement of needs, which provides an indicator of severity of their needs. Our key findings were as follows:

Socio-economic disadvantange
Disabled children come from more disadvantaged backgrounds than non-disabled children. There is also some evidence that disadvantage increases among families with a disabled child.

Bullying
Disabled children and young people are more likely to be bullied than non-disabled children. These greater risks of bullying victimisation are partly accounted for by other characteristics than disability that also put the the child at higher risk of being bullied and which are more common among disabled children. However, disabled 7-year-olds remain more likely to be bullied than their otherwise similar non-disabled peers, and disabled teenagers are also more likely to suffer relational (i.e. non-physical) forms of bullying than their non-disabled peers. Morever, teenagers with or without a statement of special educational needs are also more likley to suffer physical bullying than their otherwise similar peers.

Behavoural problems
We looked at four domains of behavioural problems measured across ages 3 to 7 using a recognised scale. These problem domains were conduct problems, peer problems, hyperactivity and emotional symptoms. We found that disabled children have more behavioural problems at age 3 than non-disabled children across these four domeains and these heightened behavioural problems can only partly be accounted for in terms of differences in family context. In addition, for peer, hyperactivity and emotional symptoms, problems seemed to get relatively worse for disabled children over the ages 3 to 7 for disabled children, while the gap for conduct problems between non-disabled and disabled children remained constant. These differences in the development of behavioural problems could not be explained in terms of differences in family charactersitics, parenting practice or home learning environment between disabled children and non-disabled children.

Educational development
We explored cognitive and educational progress among young disabled children bewteen the ages of 3 and 5 and between the ages of 5 and 7. We used multiple measures of cognitive and educational attainment collected at the various ages. We started by ascertaining the extent to which disabled children have lower cognitive scores than non-disabled children prior to school entry at age 3; and found that disabled children have lower scores in cognitive tests on average at age 3. We then looked at their progress relative to childre who started from the same points as them. We found that, compared to children with similar scores at age 3, disabled children made less progress by age 5. Similarly, compared to children with lower educational and cognitive scores at age 5 they made less progress betwen the ages of 5 and 7, and, to a lesser extent between ages 7 and 11 This findings held even after controlling for family and individual background characteristics and whether or not we included children with cognitive disabilities in our overarching measures of disabled children.

Educational transitions in the teenage years
Following on from some debates in current researcher, we explored whether disabled children had similar or reduced educational expectations compared to children who had similar educational attainment to them immediately prior to secondary school entry. We found that disabled young people had less ambitious educational expectations relative to non-disabled children with similar prio academic performance and controlling for socio-economic background. However, neither their lower educational expectations nor their earlier educational attainment explained their much lower chances of achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs at age 16. Moreover, even among those who did achieve the 'threshold' level of GCSEs at age 16, usually necessary for continuing into post-compulsory education, we found that disabled children had lower expectations of continuing into tertiary education than their non-disabled peers. Conditioning on GCSE attainment and on staying on in secondary school. Disabled young people were no less likely to continue into higher education than their non-disabled peers. Those who did so were highly selected, including in terms of SES background.
Exploitation Route The findings have already been used in a Government Office of Science POSTnote on the Special Educational Needs (SEN) reforms.
They have also been shared widely among academic and policy and practitioner audiences.
The DfE has shown interest in the findings and continues to express in the latest results.
Disabled parents and disabled children's organisations have expressed interest in and welcomed the results.
They are being taking up by organisations addressing bullying among children and by organisations working with disabled children. They have potential to be of use to Educational Departments and may also be of value to parents of disabled children.
The work initiated under this project has since been extended and developed in work carried out under the ESRC-funded Cross Cohort Research Programme (CCRP). Under the CCRP have explored longer term outcomes of disabled children in that project and have continued to share our findings with DfE and to submit evidence to a Select Committee inquiry on Special Educational Needs, and to engage with policy makers and the Council for Disabled Children.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://lucindaplatt.com/projects/trajectories-and-transitions-in-the-cognitive-and-educational-development-of-disabled-children-and-young-people/
 
Description The project and its findings have attracted substantial policy as well as research interest - and have had implications for the understanding of the position of disabled children and their wellbieng and the implications for policy and practice. The project findings were cited in a Government of Office Science PostNote on the new provisions relating to disabled children and young people coming in under the Children and Families Act 2014, and the project PI also contributed to the reviewing that PostNote. A 'round table' seminar to discuss the findings was held with practitioners and some policy makers in September 2014. This was held under the auspices of the Council for Disabled Children and informed their use and interpretation of the findings in future work and engagement with policy makers. A further seminar was given at the London School of Economics in November 2014, which was attended by policy-makers, academics and practioners working in the fields of disability, education, bullying etc. (e.g. SCOPE, Department of Health, DCLG, Nuffield Trust, Work Foundation, DWP, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Universities of Warwick and East London, UCL IOE etc.) and provoked substantial debate. The Department for Education requested and organised an internal seminar from the research team specifically for senior analysts and those in policy in relevant areas, including bullying as well as Special Educational Needs in January 2015. The DfE requested a further seminar presentation which took place in February 2017 and was attended by around 20 people from different departments of the DfE, including those working on social mobility and those working on SEN. The presntation contained updated findings from two strands of the project relating to educational development of children up to age 11 and from age 13/14 to age 19/20. The bullying research was presented at a Festival of Social Science event organised by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies and the Anti-Bullying Alliance in November 2015. This event attracted 130 people, mostly from the voluntary sector and provided considerable material for discussion and debate. The Anti-Bullying Alliance have taken the findings to heart and wish to repeat the event in future years, given how important is to share the evidence and how much appetite there is to know more about this area. Findings from the project overall were presented in a plenary talk at a one-day workshop in Cardiff on Promoting and Empowering the Rights of Disabled Children and Young People. THis event, which attracted around 120 policy makers, practitioners and representatives from voluntary sector organisations also involved disabled children and young people themselves. It provided the opportunity not only to share evidence on the various impacts of disability, but also to discuss their implications for practice and for the development of policy. The bullying results were the subject of a talk at a widening participation event to around 100 schoolchildren, which took place in Warwick and provided the opportunity to demonstrate in simple terms how quantitative analysis of (longitudinal) surveys can treat topics that are very gemane to students' lives - and facilitated them thinking about the role of research as well as the findings. The reach of the project and the findings is also demonstrated in an invitation to one of the team members to chair an Inside Government one-day event on Preventing and Tackling School Bullying. This event (which is taking place in December 2015) is targeted at head and deputy headteachers, heads of behaviour, anti-bullying co-ordinators, directors of education, education welfare managers, principals, heads of year, teaching assistants and e-safety co-ordinators from local authorities, schools including primary, secondary, independent and free and also the voluntary and private sectors. Dr Chatzitheochari, as chair of this event, will be responsible for chairing a panel of speakers, and also organising disucssion points and indicating the conclusions for those working in the field. There was substantial media coverage of both the findings relating to bullying and those relating to the development of behavioural problems. This stimulated contacts from policy and practitioner organisations across the UK, as well as from parents of disabled children. And many copies of the papers were requested or downloaded. Blogs e.g. on Society Central and dedicated coverage in other online 'magazines' stimulated further interest and contacts. Academic impact has been achieved through the above activities but also through a conference presentation at a conference on Social Stratification in Edinburgh in September 2014, and at invited seminars at the University of Oxford, the Institute of Education and the London School of Economics and Political Science, all in 2014. A poster of research from the project was presented at the Population Association of America annual conference in San Diego in 2015 and attracted some discussion. Working papers and articles continue to be downloaded; and, while the publication time lag means that papers in 2014 are not likely to be cited in any numbers, google scholar shows that our working papers are already being cited in other academic work. They are also being cited in a range of policy papers including, for example: UK Implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Civil Society Alternative Report 2015 to the UN Committee - England. Produced by the Children's Rights Alliance for England www.crae.org.uk/media/78665/crae_civil_society_report_to_un_web.pdf; Tackling Homophobic, Biphobic, and Transphobic Bullying for Disabled Children and those with Special Educational Needs. A Guide for School Staff by Antibullying Alliance (available at anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk); Local Action on Health Inequalities. Reducing Social Isolation Across the Life Course by Public Health England Practising Resource: September 2015; Submission to Scottish Parliamen't Equal Opportunities Committee Age and Social Isolation from Inclusion Scotland; Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Needs Assessment June 2014 (available at democracy.islington.gov.ac.uk). The research has also been cited in consultation reports/leaflets for parents/teachers etc by cafamily.org.uk, Rescare, and the Sheffield Parent Carer Forum.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Aspirations, attainment and mobility: the experience of disabled children and young people 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Between 20-30 members of the DfE attended the talk, both in person and by video-link from four offices around the country. I presented findings on educational attainment and development of dsiabled children from a forthcoming journal article, that develops earlier work relating to young children (and extended it up to age 11), and on educational transitions of disabled teenagers from age 13/14 to age 19/20. The intention was for the DfE to gain insight into the research findings in order to inform their ongoing work around special educational needs and disability (SEND) and around social mobility and to share and discuss their priorities so that these could potentially be reflected in ongoing and future work. There were many questions and some lively discussion and a lot of sharing of information both ways. There have been subsequent follow-ups from the seminar organiser confirming the interest and providing additional materials relating to the discussion and confirming the value of an ongong 'conversation' on the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Bullying Experience and Effects: UK Evidence 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discusson

Stimulated participants to think about how bullying is is linked to child disability over and above other factors that put children at risk of being bullied.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/Conference.aspx?itemid=4286&itemTitle=Bullying+Experience+and+Effects%3a+UK...
 
Description Bullying and Disability Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

There were a number of follow up requests for further information from those who could not attend the seminar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case/_new/events/seminar_past.asp?ID=13
 
Description Disabled Children Conference 2015: Promoting and Empowering the Rights of Disabled Children and Young People 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The talk to those working in the field of child disability - either as practitioners, policy makers or in the voluntary sector, and many with direct expereince of it - was intended to present the results of recent research on child disability across a number of different areas (educational, behavioural, social), to expand understanding of the evidence base, to stimulate discussion and to inform practice and recommendations.

The talk only took place very recently (11 November) so there has not been much opportunity for follow-up activity; but at the event itself there were questions and extensive discussion of the implications of the findings. Participants also took away summaries that had been prepared covering various aspects of the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.childreninwales.org.uk/item/disabled-children-conference-2015-promoting-empowering-rights...
 
Description Disabled Children Round Table 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A group of those involved in campaigning, training, policy-making and research dissemination relating to disabled children and young people attended the event organised by the National Children's Bureau and the Council for Disabled Children in collaboration with the research team, in order to hear about the research conducted as part of the ESRC-funded project and identify key messages and key audiences for those messages.

Participants shared findings in their work, identified relevant audiences to reach, provided insights into the use and interpretation of the findings, discussed how they would be useful in their work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Educational Aspirations and Outcomes of Disabled Young People in England 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and constructive suggestions as to how to take the research forward - which we are acting on in subseqeunt versions of the paper. Provided early stafe 'peer review' of our findings and research approach, which were broadly endorsed.

Subsequent requests for the paper of the talk have been made.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.camsis.stir.ac.uk/stratif/
 
Description Educational progress and transitions of disabled children and young people 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Lively subseqeunt debate and many questions, as well as suggestions for taking the research further.

A number of requests for the ensuing paper recieved.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.sociology.ox.ac.uk/cck?lang=en&limit=15&limitstart=15&search=past_events
 
Description Experiences of bullying among disabled children and young people 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked substantial questions throughout and comments and suggestions afterwards.

We took into account some of the comments and suggestions when revising the paper.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.ioe.ac.uk/research/departments/qss/36262.html
 
Description Talk to School Students, Warwick 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk introduced students to the value of quantitative research through example of bullying study. Opportunities for questions / discussion afterwards.

Students now have the opportunity to consider if they want to pursue study in quantitative social science. Opens up their ideas of what possibilities are for university education in the social sciences. The event only just took place (12 November 2015) so any consequences will take time to filter through.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Trajectories and Transitions Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Substantial questions after the event and some follow up as well as considerable taking-away of briefing papers and working papers.

After the seminar, which the DfE was unable to attend, they asked for a dedicated internal seminar on the project findings with high-level policy and analysis 'leads'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case/_new/events/seminar_past.asp?ID=13
 
Description Trajectories and transitions internal seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a select internal seminar at the DfE targeted at team leads with interests in the relevant areas and to enable them to consider and discuss potential implications of the research.

THe talk was very recent; so there has been no follow-up yet, but I anticipate there will be as the findings are digested. And I will send the seminar organiser any futher outputs relating to the project that continue to emerge. Moreover, the group expressed substantial interest in future work planned and funded for the period from 2016-18.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015