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Institute for Social Justice

Schools and Young People with SENs

Research projects related to the participation of young people with special educational needs in mainstream schooling in York.

AIMSS: Autism Inclusive Mainstream Secondary Schooling

Children with Autism make up 1.8% of the total school population the UK.

Whilst policy directs that they should be educated in mainstream settings (DFE & DFH 2015), outcomes and experiences are poor (Timpson, 2019, AAPGA, 2017).

This project extends a previous research partnership project with the Specialist Teaching Team for Autism based at City of York Council, called the York Autism Transitions Project. For this project, we conducted interviews and administered measures of wellbeing, life skills and bullying with 15 autistic young people, their parents, and teachers annually between year 6 and year 9.

The AIMSS project will now work with a small group of young people from the Autism Transitions Project to together develop an intervention to support secondary schools to be more inclusive. The Principal Investigator of this project is Sue Mesa, with Associate Professor Lorna Hamilton and Dr Trish Hobman.

Read more about our recent work on our Reports page.

STEPS: School Transition Experiences for Pupils with SEN

Children with SEN make up 15.9% of the total school population in the UK.

For many of these young people, the transition from primary to secondary school can be challenging - with new environments, new teachers, new friends, and new routines. Getting transition right can have a profound impact on pupils' academic and social development.

STEPS: School Transition Experiences for Pupils with SEN project is about listening to the voices of these young people in order to learn and try to improve this experience in the city of York.

There are three distinct phases of the research:

Phase 1: Exploring with a small group of young people with SEN leaving primary school about what makes for positive transitions, using a range of accessible methods. We will then follow these same young people as they move into and through mainstream secondary school.

Phase 2: Gathering insights from a wider range of stakeholders, including other pupils with SEN, their parents, and school practitioners about what enables or creates barriers to positive transitions between primary and secondary school.

Phase 3: Using what we find to develop resources and a toolkit to support other young people with SEN, families, and schools with the view to improving transition from primary to mainstream secondary school for young people with SEN.

The Principal Investigators are Associate Professor Lorna Hamilton and Dr Jonathan Vincent. PhD student, Kathryn Lewis, will be conducting the data collection and day-to-day running of the project.

STEPS is in collaboration with the City of York Council and is funded by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust over 3 years.

As part of this project we have made 3 animations using words taken from interviews with 11 Year 6 autistic pupils as they were finishing primary school and moving into Year 7 at secondary school.

STEPS animations

STEPS1: How Are You Feeling?

This video explains how autistic pupils leaving primary school were feeling about this transition.

STEPS2: What Is Year 7 Like?

This video explains what autistic pupils felt secondary school was like having left primary school and started Year 7.

STEPS3: What Helps With Transition?

This video explains what they found helped to make the transition from primary school to secondary school a success.


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