Adolescent Disability and Educational Attainment

Childhood and adolescent disability have been largely overlooked in social stratification and life course research. As a result, we still know very little surrounding well documented disability differentials in educational and occupational attainment. This talk will examine educational transitions of disabled young people in England, drawing on data from Next Steps (formerly known as Longitudinal Study of Young People in England). We draw on social stratification literature on primary and secondary effects as well as literature on health-related stigma in order to understand mechanisms behind disabled young people’s educational progress and decisions at key stages of the English school system. Our results show that differentials in transitions rates to A Levels and university are largely the result of primary effects, reflecting differences in school performance of disabled and non-disabled young people. However, there is also evidence for secondary effects, demonstrating the parallels of disability with other inequalities. More specifically, we find that similarly achieving disabled young people are less likely to proceed to A Levels compared to their non-disabled counterparts. We seek to explain this by drawing on the concept of health-related stigma, and proceed to explore the extent to which secondary effects can be explained by experiences of bullying and suppressed educational expectations of disabled young people.