Changing the exclusionary practices of mainstream secondary schools: the experience of girls with SEND. ‘I have some quirky bits about me that I mostly hide from the world’

Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are disproportionately over-represented in official statistics on exclusion suggesting that mainstream schools are failing to meet their needs. We argue for the importance of looking at the cultures of schooling.  School belonging (or connectedness) has been widely associated with a raft of positive outcomes although there is relatively little research that has focused on pupils with SEND.  This paper contributes to that gap presenting questionnaire data collected on the barriers and supports to inclusion and girls’ feelings of belonging in school.  The needs of girls who identify as having SEND can be more difficult to discern, their strategies for coping effectively masking their difficulties. Our data reveal that the girls in the study with SEND feel less connected to school than other girls. Their scores for their sense of belonging were significantly associated with the barriers and supports they encounter across a range of school contexts. It was the relational aspects of schooling that were most important for girls with SEND. Feeling you belong means that you feel safe to be yourself, that you don’t need to hide your “quirky bits,” with the attendant demands on mental health.

  • J. Porter
  • J. Ingram


Journal of Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Volume 26, 2021 - Issue 1 : Excluded Lives

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