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New research to understand the experiences of special educational needs (SEN) pupils in York

Published: 09 May 2022

  •   Research
Back of pupils head sat in school
Researchers at York St John University have been granted £50,427 by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust to investigate transitions from primary to secondary school for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) across the city of York. 

The aims of the 36-month project are to better understand what makes for positive transitions for young people with SEN moving from primary to secondary education and to generate wider understanding of their needs among practitioners and parents.  

Children with SEN make up 15.9% of the total school population in the UK, including 3.3% with an Education Health and Care Plan. Within the City of York Council local authority, the number of children with SEN is estimated to be 3,575 (CYC 2021).  

The research is located within the Institute for Social Justice, with principal investigators from the School of Education, Language and Psychology, Associate Professor Lorna Hamilton and Dr Jonathan Vincent, working in partnership with the City of York Council and local primary and secondary mainstream schools.  

Associate Professor Lorna Hamilton said: “The move from primary to secondary school is a key transition in the lives of children with SEN. The change of environment, teachers and community marks this as a vulnerable period which can have a profound impact on students' academic and social development. There is a need to better understand the facilitators of, and barriers to, successful transition for these children.” 

Senior lecturer Dr Jonathan Vincent said: “While there has been progress in developing transition approaches for these young people, including the enhanced place of pupil voice in the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and review process, for many the transition remains a significant challenge.” 

The transition from primary to secondary for pupils with SEN has been raised as an issue of key concern by the City of York Council, which is seeking to improve the educational experiences, opportunities and outcomes for children and young people with SEN.  

Maxine Squire, City of York Council Assistant Director, Education and Skills, said: “We want to better understand the experiences of communities across the city and the proposed research project will benefit our work to develop the evidence base to inform future commissioning decisions in the local area. In particular, we want to better understand the experience of children with SEN and how the York system can improve their educational outcomes and lived experience.” 

This research will have an immediate impact through its collaboration with the City of York Council, but also the potential for far wider influence for the national school population. 

Over the three years, the team aim to produce a visual resource for other pupils with SEN, families, and school staff to learn from. They will also engage with wider stakeholders, including families and school professionals, to understand the factors affecting transition with a view to developing CPD training.  

This will be supported by the appointment of a full-time PhD studentship within The Institute for Social Justice, which is currently open to applications.  

Find out more and apply: 

For enquiries, contact Associate Professor Lorna Hamilton ( or Dr Jonathan Vincent ( ). 

The Sir Halley Trust is a grant-giving charity dedicated to innovative and pioneering projects that enable human flourishing and to prevent suffering. 

The Institute for Social Justice facilitates collaborative and impactful research across York St John University.  

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