The project used mixed qualitative and quantitative methods. Three case study Local Education Authorities (LEAs) were identified in the South East of England, which encompassed a range of inclusiveness and deprivation. Research was undertaken in nine schools; one primary, one secondary and one special school in each LEA. The schools chosen had a diversity of specialist facilities, levels of inclusion and socio-economic composition. Data from the Pupil Level Annual Schools Census (PLASC) and national census have been analysed to contextualise the case studies.

The in-depth qualitative research has included:

  • Participant observation of school and leisure spaces – at least 30 days has been spent in each school observing children’s and adults’ everyday practices. We also attended a variety of breakfast clubs, lunchtime clubs and after school clubs.
  • Participatory research with children and young people – we did research with about 12 children or young people in each school. We were interested in finding out about the participants’ experiences of inclusion/exclusion, their preferred activities, factors that enabled or constrained their participation in these activities, and the dynamics of their social networks.

At primary level the children and young people then used a variety of methods to tell us more about these experiences and practices, including dramatic techniques, drawing, making cartoon strips, and taking photographs with disposable cameras. In the secondary and special schools the majority of the participants used disposable cameras to take photos, and we talked to them about these photos once they had been developed. We also conducted semi-structured interviews with some of the participants.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with:

  • parents of participants
  • actors within each school (e.g. SENCo, Teaching Assistants, after school club staff)
  • local actors (e.g. staff from the LEA, local charities and providers of services and leisure activities for young people with disabilities)
  • national actors (e.g. staff from national charities and interest groups)


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