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The peer relations of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools: The importance of meaningful contact and interaction with peers

Pinto, C; Baines, EM; Bakopolou, I; (2019) The peer relations of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools: The importance of meaningful contact and interaction with peers. British Journal of Educational Psychology 10.1111/bjep.12262. (In press).

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Abstract

Background and aims: Children with special educational needs (SEN) are generally less accepted by peers in school and have fewer friendships than those without SEN. However, little research has examined peer relations across multiple dimensions, relative to severity of need and in relation to classroom experiences and individual behavioural characteristics. This unique study aimed to extend understanding of the peer relations of pupils with differing levels of SEN support relative to children of differing attainment levels without a formally recognised SEN and in relation to levels of social contact in class and teacher ratings of behaviour. Sample: Three hundred and seventy-five 9-11-year-old children recruited from 13 classes in 4 mainstream primary schools in the south of England. Fifty-nine pupils had been identified as having a SEN, of which 17 had a statement of SEN. Method: Pupil sociometric questionnaires provided a range of peer relations measures and the extent of meaningful contact with peers. Pupil behaviour was rated by teachers using the Pupil Behaviour Rating scales. Analyses examined differences in peer relations measures, pupil behaviour and meaningful contact across different levels of educational need. Results: Compared to pupils without SEN, pupils with a statement of SEN had lower levels of peer acceptance, fewer reciprocated friendships, and were less integrated into peer groups. Whilst internalising behaviours, such as social anxiousness and anxiety, and externalising behaviours, such as aggression and hyperactivity, were related to peer relations measures, frequency of meaningful contact with peers was more predictive of peer relations measures than either SEN status or behaviour. Conclusion: Findings point to the crucial role of meaningful social contact in the classroom for children’s relationships with peers. The study advances understanding by highlighting that greater opportunity for meaningful social contact may improve social involvement of, as well as enhance academic outcomes for, pupils with SEN educated in mainstream schools.

Type: Article
Title: The peer relations of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools: The importance of meaningful contact and interaction with peers
DOI: 10.1111/bjep.12262
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12262
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: peer relationships, pupils with special educational needs, meaningful interaction, sociometric methods, socio-cognitive mapping, inclusion
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10063349
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