Physical violence and theft more likely for SEN students


Fifteen-year-olds with SEN statements are “significantly more likely” to be victims of physical violence or theft.

Fifteen-year-olds with SEN statements are “significantly more likely” to be victims of physical violence or theft.

A study involving information from more than 19,000 children and adolescents born in the early 1990s and 2000s has examined the prevalence of bullying at ages seven and 15 for those students with cognitive and physical impairments.

Around 17 per cent of the children and young people in the nationally representative samples had SEN, with up to five per cent having a statement of SEN.

At age seven, the researchers found a clear link – with SEN pupils being twice as likely as other children to suffer from “persistent bullying”.

Twelve per cent of the seven-year-old children with SEN and 11 per cent of those with statements said they were bullied “all of the time”. This dropped to six per cent for their non-disabled peers.

While there was a more complex picture at age 15, the study still discovered that students with a statement of SEN were “significantly more likely to be frequent victims of threats or acts of physical violence and theft”. This was the case even when other factors that increase the risk of bullying were taken into account.

Statemented students were also more likely to be victims of “relational bullying”, including being excluded by other students or called names.

The research is being carried by academics at the Institute of Education’s (IoE) Centre for Longitudinal Studies and the London School of Economics and the paper Bullying Victimisation Among Disabled Children and Young People: Evidence from two British longitudinal studies was published last week.

The academics also discovered that the six per cent of 15-year-old students who have long-standing limiting illnesses or chronic conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, vision problems or mental health issues, were even more likely to experience relational bullying than other SEN pupils. However, they were no more likely to suffer physical bullying.

The IoE’s Dr Stella Chatzitheochari, one of the study’s authors, 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 of the Council for Disabled Children added: “We know that bullying remains the single biggest concern raised by children with SEN 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.”

For more findings from the project, visit the Centre for Longitudinal Studies’ at


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Claim Free Subscription