A report released last November but which has just come to YFX’s attention explores the safety of students with cognitive disability in a school setting; it is the result of research by the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University.
The report, Safe at
school? Exploring safety and harm of students with cognitive disability in and
around school, looks in detail at how students, their families and others,
such as teachers, child protection and disability workers, view the personal
safety of this cohort of students, and what can be done to improve the
Although the problems – such as bullying, harassment and
isolation – faced by students with cognitive disability are fairly
well documented, little is known about these difficulties from the students’
perspectives. Researchers at Southern Cross University aimed to explore and
understand these difficulties in order to assist students and ‘build on
existing and developing legal and policy frameworks and good practice’.
The 84-page report includes a literature review, and
sections on legal and policy contexts, as well as a final section on
implications and recommendations for change. The four ‘core questions’ asked by
the researchers were:
What characterises the experience of harm of
children and young people with cognitive disability in and around school?
What are the barriers to keeping students safe?
What promotes personal safety for children and
young people with cognitive disability?
How can their legal and human rights be upheld?
In all, the experiences of 27 young people are detailed in
the report, and the harms they suffered ranged from ‘cruel teasing to sexual
assault’. The effect of these experiences on the young people’s confidence,
happiness and general wellbeing were marked, as was the approach taken by
individual schools in dealing with the problems when they were brought to their
This report is an important one for anyone working with or
for young people with cognitive disability as it affords a real understanding
from the young person’s point of view of what can be done to validate their
situation, and how it can be improved. It has implications for policy
development and legal obligations within a school setting.