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Disabled primary school children twice as likely to be bullied

Recent research suggests that primary school pupils in England with special educational needs are twice as likely as other children to experience bullying.

This research comes from London University’s Institute of Education (IoE), in which they analysed data relating to bullying from two national cohort studies. These studies were:

  • The Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking the lives of 19,000 UK children born between 2000 and 2001
  • Next Steps, formally known as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, which tracks 16,000 people born in England in 1989 and 1990

The study’s findings bring to light not only the instances of bullying, but the ongoing and persistent nature of the bullying.

For example the study found that 12% of seven-year-olds with special needs felt bullied all the time, compared to 6% of non-disabled peers.

The IoE researchers suggest that these children have a “double disadvantage” of disability and of bullying during critical periods of their lives and development.

The researchers state that there was “substantially higher risks of being bullied ‘all the time’ for disabled children compared to non-disabled children”.

In addition, they found that higher bullying rates among disabled groups are partly explained by other risk factors, such as age within the school year, sex and cognitive ability/educational attainment. However, the researchers state that:

“Our analysis showed that disabled children and adolescents still remain at higher risk of being bullied even after we consider the influence of a wide range of demographic, socio-economic and family factors.”

The report also suggests that the bullying takes several forms, including physical abuse such as hitting or shoving, as well as ‘relational’ bullying, such as name-calling or being excluded.

The study suggests that disabled children as a group have been “largely neglected” in research assessing the impact of bullying.

One of the study’s authors, Stella Chatzitheochari, said:

“We know that being bullied contributes to social inequalities later in life – people who were victims in childhood often grow up to have low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and perform less well in the labour market than their peers.

“These findings suggest that bullying reinforces the inequalities experienced by disabled people, putting them at a double disadvantage.”

Philippa Stobbs, from the Council for Disabled Children, also said:

“We know that bullying remains the single biggest concern raised by children with special educational needs and disabilities.

“The fact that this continues to be so is unacceptable. This is the first time we’re able to demonstrate with absolute certainty just how pervasive this problem is for disabled children and young people across the country.”

From this study, it is clear that more must be done to tackle bullying in schools, particularly with regard to safeguarding children with special educational needs, and ensuring that they receive the support they need.



Image from

Originally written by myself on Dancing Giraffe 


About Poppy Reece

Hi, I'm Poppy. I graduated from Essex Uni with a Social Psychology and Sociology degree, and now work in the Youth Support Team at Suffolk County Council. I also write articles for disability charity Dancing Giraffe when I can. I'm interested in issues of poverty, inequality, politics, social justice, and health. I plan to use this blog to write about issues which I feel passionately about, comment on news stories which take my interest, and simply post stories and information which may be of interest.

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