Publication - Research and analysis

Additional support for learning: experiences of pupils and those that support them

Published: 26 Mar 2019
Directorate:
Learning Directorate
Part of:
Children and families, Education, Research
ISBN:
9781787812680

Findings from qualitative research.

84 page PDF

757.7 kB

84 page PDF

757.7 kB

Contents
Additional support for learning: experiences of pupils and those that support them
3. School experiences of children and young people

84 page PDF

757.7 kB

3. School experiences of children and young people

Chapter summary

Many pupils at mainstream primary schools liked their friends and teachers. A few said they liked everything and would not change anything. Many secondary school mainstream pupils liked the range of subjects and the support that they received. However, some secondary school pupils said they did not like anything about their school at all. Some said they hated school and did not want to be there. Some secondary pupils said they did not like their teachers and a few said they felt the teachers did not like them.

Pupils at special schools said they liked playing outside, life skills, sports, music and art. Many said there was nothing that they did not like, and the things that pupils did not like were diverse and very individual - mentioned by one or two pupils.

Pupils at mainstream schools and special schools largely felt positive about all SHANARRI indicators. However, some mainstream school pupils (particularly secondary school girls) said that they felt - or had previously felt - very unsafe due to bullying. A few pupils at special schools said that pupils were violent or aggressive towards them and wanted more help with feeling safe.

A few pupils at mainstream schools felt they could achieve better, and at their own pace, in small group or ASN base activity rather than in the whole class. A few pupils at special schools said they were covering work they had already done, and were ready to be more challenged.

Most pupils at mainstream schools felt they had lots of friends and that it was easy to make friends. They felt included in the life of the school. However, a few pupils in ASN bases within mainstream schools mentioned that they did not always feel involved in the life of the school beyond the base. A few said they felt left out, were bullied or were treated differently because of their additional support needs.

Around half of the pupils at special schools said that they had lots of friends. However, at two special schools pupils found it quite hard to make friends.

Overall, almost all pupils at mainstream schools and special schools felt their needs were well met. A few primary pupils (at mainstream schools that did not have ASN bases) said they wanted more help.

Introduction

3.1 This chapter sets out young people's own experiences of school. It includes perspectives from 100 young people. Almost half (49) were primary age pupils and just over half (51) were secondary age pupils. The pupils were from a mix of mainstream schools (27); mainstream schools with enhanced provision or bases (52); and special schools (21).

3.2 It explores:

  • likes and dislikes;
  • feelings about school;
  • views on friendship and inclusion;
  • views on ability of the school to meet their needs;
  • comparisons between different school experiences; and
  • young people's priorities for the future.

3.3 Throughout this chapter, care has been taken to present young people's views in their own words wherever possible.

3.4 It is worth noting that this research is qualitative. While this chapter gives an in-depth understanding of the experiences, feelings and perspectives of those who were involved in the research, its findings cannot be extrapolated to the wider population.

Likes and dislikes

Mainstream schools - with and without enhanced support or bases

3.5 Many pupils at mainstream primary schools indicated that they liked their friends and teachers, as well as art, music, sport, playing outside and learning interesting topics. A few said they liked everything, and would not change anything.

"I like school because people are kind to each other."
Pupil, 8, mainstream primary

"I get to see my friends and play with them."
Pupil, 7, mainstream primary

3.6 Secondary school pupils said that they liked the range of subjects, particularly including art, music, sports (in some instances) and cooking. Many mentioned that the main thing they liked about school was the support that they received - including support from personal assistants, classroom assistants, targeted support and support at ASN bases or classes. Some also liked the range of opportunities to go on trips, do activities and try different topics. Some mentioned that they liked seeing their friends, and some mentioned that they liked the teachers, or certain teachers.

"They (art and drama teachers) really understand how I learn, and they don't single me out and make me feel stupid."
Pupil, 16, mainstream secondary (with targeted support)

3.7 However, some secondary school pupils said that they did not like anything about their school at all. Some said that they hated school and did not want to be there. A few found that secondary school was quite a contrast to primary school, which had more focus on play, and found it hard to adapt to the routine and volume of work at secondary school. A few were anxious because they had so many different teachers, and there was a lot of pressure as they progressed up through secondary school. One girl had experienced racism related violence multiple times[8] and another girl had experienced bullying related to homophobia.

3.8 Some secondary pupils indicated that they did not like their teachers - with some describing teachers as scary, angry, shouty, unapproachable and too strict. A few said that they felt the teachers did not like them. For example, one girl said her that one of her teachers was very unapproachable and she was worried about asking her for help, and she had a bad experience with another class teacher in the past.

"I had to leave a class because of how horrible a teacher was being to me. He would make fun of me in front of the class, and then everyone would laugh."
Pupil, 16, mainstream secondary

3.9 Pupils at both mainstream primary and secondary schools also indicated that they did not like a range of things, including maths, writing and spelling. A few said other pupils were annoying, naughty or it was hard to concentrate if the class or common area was too loud. A few felt that when pupils did not behave in class it was not fair, because it took time away from the other pupils as teachers spend time managing them. Some felt it would be better to have smaller class sizes.

"Everyone is really naughty, but I'm always sensible. I used to be naughty before, I used to be out of control. But now I'm always sensible."
Pupil, 10, mainstream primary (part time in ASN class)

3.10 A few said that they did not feel that teachers were trained to deal with people who have behavioural needs.

"I didn't know I had ADD or ADHD until S2. All the symptoms of it were what I had been getting into trouble for. I think that teachers aren't really taught how to deal with people like this… I had been getting kicked out of school for being distracted and I had really bad anger. The teachers were shouting and getting angry with me for things that I couldn't help."
Pupil, 15, mainstream secondary (part time in ASN base)

3.11 Some secondary school girls specifically said they did not like PE. A few said they didn't like learning, because it was too hard. And a few secondary school pupils said that they would prefer to spend more of their time at the ASN base and less time in mainstream classes.

Special schools

3.12 Pupils at special schools indicated that they liked a range of different things about their school:

  • playing outside - in the playground, in the park;
  • life skills - going shopping, cooking, gardening, travel
  • sports and PE - swimming, football, walking, dancing, cycling and soft play in the school;
  • music and art - which relaxed some pupils;
  • story time and talk time;
  • going on trips, to assemblies and to after school activity;
  • having friends; and
  • school work - when it was not too hard and there was an opportunity to learn in a quiet and calm environment; and
  • support - which two pupils stated they particularly liked, and felt was more than would be available in a mainstream school.

"I like sunny days and playing outside."
Pupil, 13, special school

"This school is better than mainstream. Mainstream doesn't have soft play or bikes or trikes. In mainstream they don't have computers in the class, they have ICT."
Pupil, 6, special school

3.13 Many pupils at special schools indicated that there was nothing they did not like about their school. The dislikes that were mentioned were very diverse, and included:

  • noise - from classmates, which could make pupils worried and anxious;
  • school work - not being challenged enough or being challenged too much;
  • friends - not having friends the same age, not getting along with people, being teased or getting annoyed by others;
  • safety - hearing swearing and getting hurt at school, or being restrained; and
  • not being allowed to be independent - for example take time out alone, or go out of the school grounds at lunchtime.

"I don't like when people swear. It doesn't happen in mainstream school."
Pupil, 6, special school

"Sometimes I feel too mature and independent for this place."
Pupil, 16, special school

"Here, they hold you. I don't really like getting held. It kinda makes me worse."
Pupil, 7, special school

3.14 Pupils were asked what would make the school better. Many pupils at special schools were not able to answer this question or did not understand it. The pupils who did answer gave a range of different responses - including having more outside time; less annoying pupils; less hard work; being able to bring Pokemon; and having more time to fidget, be alone and listen to music.

3.15 Two pupils felt restricted during lunchtime, with one older pupil feeling young people should be allowed to go out of the school grounds for lunch, and a primary pupil not liking that all pupils had to wait in the dining hall until they were all finished lunch and then all go out and play together.

3.16 One pupil would have liked more people with same abilities at the school, feeling that there were few pupils he could communicate with or socialise with. One pupil would like more teachers, and one would like larger class sizes.

"I would have more people in the one class, so that you can do more group work."
Pupil, 11, special school

Feelings about the school

Mainstream schools - with and without enhanced support or bases

3.17 Pupils at mainstream primary and secondary school largely felt positive about all SHANARRI indicators.

  • Safe - Almost all pupils felt safe, mentioning that the teachers helped them.

"All the teachers are helpful and taking care of us."
Pupil, 8, mainstream primary (targeted support)

However, some said that they felt - or had previously felt - very unsafe due to bullying. Half of the secondary school girls involved in the research reported experiences of bullying. For example, one pupil said that she was bullied, people try to beat her up and she felt very unsafe even in class. She said she had death threats and pupils spread rumours that it was her fault her parent died.[9] Many secondary school boys said that there were some people they did not like at school, or said that they got angry or annoyed by other people. However, a lower proportion of boys (around a fifth) reported experiences of bullying.

"I don't feel that safe because of everyone that bullies me. Even pupils in higher years bully me. People try to beat me up."
Pupil, 13, mainstream secondary (with support in class)

  • Healthy - Almost all pupils felt healthy, talking about access to healthy food, water and fresh air. A few felt unhealthy because of too much junk food or too much noise at school. A few said that they had mental health issues, and that school played a part in this around anxiety. A few felt unhealthy because they weren't able to choose where they sat in class. One pupil mentioned that the school had helped him to change his unhealthy choices around drug misuse.

"They always want to keep you active and help you study in a healthy way."
Pupil, 18, mainstream secondary (one to one support)

  • Achieving - Almost all pupils felt they were achieving, talking about good, positive feedback from teachers. A few pupils felt that they could achieve better, and at their own pace, in small group or ASN base activity rather than in the whole class. While some pupils said that their achievements were well recognised at assemblies, with awards and through teacher praise, a few pupils wanted more feedback or certificates for learning. A few pupils - mainly secondary pupils - said the work was too hard.

"They tell me I'm a superb learner… it makes me feel happy."
Pupil, 12, mainstream secondary school

"I feel like my test marks are going right up."
Pupil, 15, mainstream secondary (part time at ASN base)

  • Nurtured - All primary pupils felt nurtured, and most secondary pupils. Some secondary pupils did not feel nurtured or were unsure, because the teachers were too busy or strict.

"I am really well cared for in school. I get lots of support."
Pupil, 12, mainstream primary (with PSA support)

"If I worry about something, they ask me what's the matter with me and give me time out of the classroom."
Pupil, 12, mainstream secondary school

"Teachers are too strict, they don't look out for you."
Pupil, 13, mainstream secondary school

"They are so nice at the base. They know me really well. They're really caring and supportive if I have a problem."
Pupil, 16, mainstream secondary (at ASN base)

  • Active - Almost all pupils felt active. A few primary pupils said they chose not to be active or that access to facilities was limited, and a few secondary pupils said there was not much PE or that they did not like taking part in PE.

"I have asthma and struggle with PE. I also get bullied a lot when I do PE."
Pupil, 12, mainstream secondary (part time at ASN base)

  • Respected - Almost all pupils felt respected. Some primary pupils said they were unsure, because sometimes pupils were not nice to them, and some secondary pupils said no or that they were unsure because teachers were too busy to listen, or pupils were mean to them. Secondary school pupils often said they felt respected when they were treated like an adult.

"When I ask teachers questions they answer… We can choose what we want to do."
Pupil, 8, mainstream primary school (with targeted support)

"Some of the teachers I think see me as a demon. They always yell at me and it's not nice."
Pupil, 13, mainstream secondary school

"I feel like a lot of the time the teachers don't know who I am. They don't have the time to get to know you... I had to leave class because of how horrible a teacher was being to me."
Pupil, 16, mainstream secondary

  • Responsible - All primary pupils felt responsible, talking about helping others, helping the teacher and helping at events. Most secondary pupils felt responsible, and helped out with school events, attended school committees, helped younger pupils both in and out of class, helped with primary transitions, participated in assemblies and volunteered to help with school activities. However, a few secondary pupils said that responsibilities were more for the older pupils.

"We all get jobs like tidying, 'tooth fairies' in charge of teeth cleaning after lunch…"
Pupil, 9, mainstream primary (with small group support)

"I get to do lots of jobs in school. It makes me feel important."
Pupil, 12, mainstream primary (with PSA support)

"I get to do in class support for pupils with autism."
Pupil, 16, mainstream secondary school

  • Included - Almost all pupils felt included, and friends played a big part in this. But some felt that not all pupils included them. A few pupils in ASN bases mentioned that they did not always feel involved in the life of the school beyond the base. A few, particularly secondary girls, felt less included in PE than they wanted to be.

Special schools

3.18 Most pupils at special schools were positive about their feelings about the school. Those who were able to understand the questions were asked about their feelings in relation to SHANARRI indicators.

  • Safe - Almost all felt safe. However, a few said that they got attacked or that pupils were violent or aggressive towards them. For example, one boy - the youngest boy at a school supporting pupils with extreme social, emotional and behavioural needs - felt quite unsafe.

"Sometimes I get sad because people try to hurt me or run over me with the bikes. They try to make me die. I sometimes hide. Big boys always bully me. They try to hurt me by swearing. I just say it back to them."
Pupil, 6, special school

  • Healthy - All felt healthy. A few felt they were learning how to manage their needs more effectively.

"I learn that I can control my problems."
Pupil, 7, special school

  • Active - Almost all felt active. A few said they just didn't want to be active or didn't want to be at school.
  • Nurtured - Almost all felt nurtured. They felt teachers took care of them, looked after them and were supportive. However, a few wanted more help with feeling safe.
  • Achieving - Almost all felt that they were achieving. Pupils mentioned learning about numbers and letters, and a few said they liked learning. However, a few said they were covering work they had already done and were ready to be more challenged.

"I like it here. I like that there are small classes and nice teachers. Big classes with a lot of people stresses me out."
Pupil, 14, special school

  • Respected - Almost all said that they were respected by both pupils and teachers. However, a few said some of the pupils did not respect them and a few said teachers did not listen.
  • Responsible - Almost all felt responsible. Pupils gave lots of examples of helping the younger ones (in and out of class); helping people deal with their needs (for example putting their ear defenders on); helping the teachers; and being on the pupil council. Just one pupil said they didn't want to be responsible.
  • Included - Almost all felt included, mentioning friends, trips and clubs. However, one said that they weren't included if they were bad, and another said it was hard as they were on a split placement so could miss out on things at each school.

Friendships and inclusion

Mainstream schools - with and without enhanced support or bases

3.19 Most primary and secondary pupils at mainstream schools felt that they had lots of friends, and that it was easy to make friends. They felt included in the life of the school.

"I feel really connected with everyone in class and the teachers."
Pupil, 10, mainstream primary (in mainstream class with support)

"When I want to, it's easy to make friends."
Pupil, 11, mainstream primary (in separate ASN unit)

3.20 However, a few said that they felt left out, or that they only had one good friend. A few said this was because they got bullied, or in two cases because people treated them differently because of their additional support needs.

"They say mean things to me and treat me like garbage and they know I have a mental disorder."
Pupil, 11, mainstream primary

"I feel dumb because I don't know everything that the others know, and then I get bullied for it."
Pupil, 13, mainstream secondary

"I don't have many friends, they get annoyed with me."
Pupil, 7, mainstream primary

3.21 Some secondary school pupils said that it could be harder to make friends if you did not come from one of the feeder primaries, where pupils already knew one another, or if you have moved a lot between different schools.

3.22 One pupil found that the arrangements for outdoor play did not help him to feel included or to make friends.

Example:

One pupil in a mainstream class with support from a PSA was not able to play in the main playground. He had to play in the small courtyard playground along with a few other pupils with additional support needs, for his own safety, and because it is easier to monitor. One day a week he plays in the big playground. He has asked teachers if he can do this, but he feels they haven't done anything about it. He gets upset because he is allowed to take a friend from his class into the courtyard with him, but nobody wants to come because they want to play in the big playground.

Special schools

3.23 Around half of the pupils at special schools said that they had lots of friends. These pupils found it easy to talk to people and make friends, and were confident that their friends liked them. Some didn't like it when pupils hit them, but they often understood that this didn't mean they did not like them and they didn't mean to do it.

3.24 However, at two schools, pupils found it quite hard to make friends. One school was a very small transitional school, intended to provide intense support back into mainstream. Another was a slightly larger special school dealing with a range of needs including complex and profound needs. At one of these schools, all three pupils interviewed said they found it hard to make friends because of the high number of pupils with complex communication difficulties. At another school, a few pupils felt that there were no peers their own age and it was hard transitioning in from mainstream school.

"It's not easy… I find it difficult because I don't understand everyone else."
Pupil, 16, special school

"It was easy to make friends when there were lots of older people before, but the wee ones don't really understand."
Pupil, 12, special school

"I sometimes feel a wee bit shy."
Pupil, 7, special school

3.25 Almost all pupils felt very included in the life of the school, and enjoyed going on trips and being part of school clubs.

3.26 The experiences of children and young people in relation to inclusion in decision making about their education more widely are explored in Chapter Five.

Ability of the school to meet needs

Mainstream schools

3.27 Overall, almost all pupils at primary and secondary mainstream schools felt that their needs were well met at the school. Few wanted more support. Most felt that their needs were well met, and teachers made adjustments to suit their learning style.

"I get help when I get stuck with sums, spelling and writing. It helps me to catch up and understand what I should be doing."
Pupil, 10, mainstream primary

"They treat me like an ordinary guy, not a wee boy. And they take me seriously, so when you need help you get it straight away."
Pupil, 18, mainstream secondary

"We all have a list of things we have that help us, to make things easier. For me, its things like taking five minutes out of class, chewing gum, wearing headphones, my seating position in class… and all the teachers have a note of this."
Pupil, 16, mainstream secondary (most of the time in ASN base)

"In S1 I didn't know what to do in certain classes, and they figured out a way to change the curriculum to make it easier for me, so I could learn in a different way."
Pupil, 15, mainstream secondary

Example:

One pupil had gone from not attending school for 18 months, to attending an ASN base part time, and then moving to full time provision split between the ASN base and mainstream school.

3.28 However a few primary pupils in mainstream classes at schools that did not have enhanced support bases wanted more help.

"It would be better if I could get more support from my teacher and my friends. When I ask my friends for help they say I have to do it myself."
Pupil, 10, mainstream primary

"Sometimes I would like more help. I don't like working on my own, it's quite hard. Maybe if the teacher could be close by, not right next to me but near, so I can get help whenever I need it."
Pupil, 7, mainstream primary

Example:

One pupil at a mainstream primary school felt that his needs were well met and he was well listened to because he was allowed to do play activities in between his work. The teacher will ask him to do one sentence and then he can go and do a play activity. He likes working this way - a mix of play and work.

Example:

One pupil at a mainstream secondary school felt his needs were well met and he was well listened to because he asked for a computer to help with taking notes in class and he got it. He felt good about this because he now didn't feel he was holding up the class.

Example:

One pupil in a mainstream class said that she got help from her class teacher and from her "bestie" who sits next to her. She helps her with reading. They do this because they are friends, not because the teacher asked her to.

"She says half the words and I say the rest."

3.29 A few primary school pupils said they did not like going out of the class to get support, if it meant they missed things (making it hard to catch up) or were separate from the others. In contrast, one primary pupil did not like being in the whole class environment.

"I don't know why I don't like it in class. I like it when I get extra help but I don't like it in class."
Pupil, 10, mainstream primary (with one to one or small group support)

3.30 Pupils at secondary schools often enjoyed going to a targeted support room for extra support. A few secondary school pupils felt school would be better if it was more tranquil, there was more quiet space, there were shorter periods and there were more teachers. One secondary pupil said he did not want the additional support he was offered in class, because he did not want any extra attention. Another secondary pupil was embarrassed to use her laptop in class, because it drew attention.

"I don't like having to go in and out of class to get support."
Pupil, 8, mainstream primary (with targeted support)

"I sometimes get overwhelmed with things. When I go to LBD department it helps to make me calm and I can catch up with things that I have not completed in class."
Pupil, 16, mainstream secondary (with targeted support)

3.31 However, one secondary pupil with dyslexia felt that most of her class teachers did not make the adjustments she needed to be able to take part. Another felt she did not get the extra help she needed, and didn't get extra time to do her exams which she was supposed to receive.

"In English I think they don't know how to help me. They keep giving me bits of paper with stuff on it."
Pupil, 16, mainstream secondary (with dyslexia)

Special schools

3.32 Overall, pupils at special schools mainly felt that the school met their needs.

3.33 Pupils felt that the school work was not too hard, they were well supported by teachers and support staff, and covered appealing and interesting topics. A few said it was good that the work was flexible and you could have a break or take five minutes to clear your head. One mentioned that the environment was quieter, which helped with anxiety. One pupil said that the level of support was much more than he would get at a mainstream school.

"I do like work, as long as its not too hard."
Pupil, 10, special school

"When you do work, you get to have help. At the other school you just copy off the board."
Pupil, 7, special school

3.34 However, one pupil was keen to go back to mainstream school.

"But I want to go back to mainstream. You do more work and a lot more learning."
Pupil, 12, special school

Comparison between different school experiences

3.35 Some pupils were able to compare their experiences at different schools. Young people at special schools often had previous experience of other schools, or had split placements and so could compare current schools.

3.36 Pupils had different views. Some said that they preferred their special school. This was for a range of reasons. A few had been bullied in their other school and found this happened less at their current school. For example, one girl said she tended not to get on with girls and liked being at a special school with mainly boys. Another had missed school for 5 months before coming to the special school because she was bullied and stressed in mainstream secondary. She also felt the teachers at the mainstream secondary were mean. A few had felt isolated at their previous school. And one younger pupil felt there was more to play with at the special school.

"I was quite isolated because of the way I am. I couldn't manage my emotions and I used to kick off."
Pupil, 16, special school

"I liked it from the first time I saw it. It seemed totally fun."
Pupil, 13, special school

"This has been my dream school. When I heard I had a place here I was really, really happy."
Pupil, 14, special school

3.37 However, some pupils on split placements liked both schools. Often pupils had friends in both places. One pupil was very sad to be moved away from his mainstream school, and didn't know why he moved. A few were keen to move to mainstream primary as there were more pupils to be friends with there, or there was less detailed supervision by adults. One pupil felt discouraged from going to mainstream school by his dad, who said teachers weren't trained to deal with pupils like him.

"I really wish I was back there. I really liked it. Everything felt normal. My little sister goes there… I miss the playground and the slide and I miss the teachers."
Pupil, 9, special school

"I like the mainstream, its nice and pretty and does lots of nice things. I don't like people being loud and noisy. Its louder at mainstream."
Pupil, 6, special school

3.38 Many pupils at mainstream schools had only attended that school. However, some had moved schools. Many of the primary pupils could not remember being at other schools, or could only remember a little. Some were unclear why they moved, although some thought it was because of their behaviour.

"I was a terrible person there."
Pupil, 11, mainstream primary (full time in separate ASN unit)

"I felt bad and I wasn't learning anything."
Pupil, 11, mainstream primary (part time in ASN unit)

3.39 One girl said she was told to move schools part way through primary school and was a bit sad, but found the move easier in the end.

"I felt relaxed and happy in the end. It is more easier here for autistic children."
Pupil, 11, mainstream primary (full time in separate ASN unit)

3.40 A few who could remember said they preferred their current school due to the quieter, calmer environment with more support (often through enhanced bases).

3.41 For secondary pupils, two girls talked about moving school part way through secondary school due to bullying. One girl asked her mum if she could change schools because she was getting bullied, and was pleased to have a place in a school with a support base. She did not want to go to a special school. Another girl had a very bad experience of bullying at a mainstream secondary school, resulting in her stopping attending school for a long period and becoming suicidal. Eventually, her mum found out about the enhanced support base within a mainstream school, and she started there part time, building to full time.

3.42 Another boy moved schools part way through secondary school because he wasn't getting much support and it was too busy. He didn't find it hard to change and made new friends easily.

Priorities for the future

3.43 Secondary school pupils often had clear priorities for the future, particularly in their senior years. Young people had plans for further learning (at college or university) and careers. Many had been supported towards these at school through work experience placements, practical modules, tasters and talking to careers, guidance and subject teachers. Some had support with interview skills, CVs and applications. One boy was able to build his skills around childcare through mentoring younger pupils on a weekly basis.

3.44 For primary pupils, many had aspirations to be lots of different things, and hadn't quite decided yet. Some wanted to help people, because people had been kind to them. Some older primary pupils were excited to move on to secondary school, to learn more. Most were informed about their transition, and had visited the school.


Contact

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