Department of Education

Research projects

The unequal representation of ethnic minorities in Special Education in England: Extent, causes and consequences

Research Group: Quantitative Methods Hub

This project will determine whether pupils from some ethnic minorities are more likely to be identified with some types of special educational needs compared to White British pupils, and whether this can be explained by demographic variables such as poverty or educational achievement.

Extensive research in the US has established that Black students are substantially more likely to be identified with Special Educational Needs (SEN) than other ethnic groups, and the only nationally representative study in England in the last 25 years (Strand & Lindsay, 2009) reports a similar pattern. There are concerns this ethnic disproportionality reflects bias in school identification processes and results in inappropriate special education provision. However relatively little is known about the factors which contribute to disproportionality, largely because studies are almost exclusively based on aggregate district or school level data that do not allow the sophisticated analyses possible only with student level data. In contrast the England National School Census (SC) offers student level data for over 6 million students at each census. The proposed research will use these data to: (i) extend the analysis of the 2005 census reported by Strand & Lindsay through to the 2015, identifying trends in disproportionality over a full 10-year period; (ii) determine whether socio-economic factors such as poverty and neighbourhood deprivation can account for ethnic disproportionality in a range of SEN; (iii) analyse data longitudinally for a primary (age 4-11) and secondary (age 11-16) national cohort, and (iv) explore the impact of school composition and the variability in disproportionality across schools and Local Authorities (LAs), and.

Funder: ESRC: Department for Education (DFE) Highlight to the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI)
Grant number: ES/P000991/1
Start date: January 2017
End date: December 2018

Research reports

Lindorff, A. & Strand, S. (2018). Ethnic Disproportionality In the identification of Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs: A Multilevel Study. Paper presented to the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), New York, USA, 11-14 April 2018.

Lindorff, A. & Strand, S. (2018). Understanding ethnic disproportionality in Social, Emotional and Mental Health identification in England: Investigating higher-level variation and cross-level interaction. Paper presented to the Annual Conference of the British Educational Research Association, University of Northumbria, 11-14 September 2018.

Strand. S. & Lindorff, A. (2018). Ethnic disproportionality in the identification of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD): A national longitudinal cohort age 4-11. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Bolzano, 4-7 September 2018.

Strand. S. & Lindorff, A. (2018). Ethnic disproportionality in the identification of Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) Needs: A national longitudinal cohort age 4-11. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Bolzano, 4-7 September 2018.

Strand. S. & Lindorff, A. (2018). Ethnic disproportionality in ASD identification in the primary years: A longitudinal analysis of data from an English national cohort. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Bolzano, 4-7 September 2018.

The final report will be published by 31/12/2018.

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