Pupil Census


Children and young people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders identified through the Scottish Pupil Census

 

Background

Children and young people with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorders have poorer overall health that the equivalent general population. They are also more likely to have a lower socio-economic status and live in areas with high deprivation. This may further increase their risk of experiencing poor health.

Aims and objectives

To help us understand the needs of children and young people with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorders in Scotland, our aim is to describe this group in terms of where they live, their education and health status. We also want to examine trends in their prevalence in Scotland from 2008 to 2015.

Methods

Analysis is being undertaken of the Scottish Pupil Census. This census is conducted annually by collecting information electronically from all publicly funded primary, secondary and special schools. Whilst data has been collected since 2002, it is only possible to compare variables relevant to this study from 2008. Analysis across age ranges (4.5-18 years) is being conducted, of 2008-2015 data. We will compare neighbourhood deprivation, attendance at mainstream and special schools or units, and absences and exclusions of pupils with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorders to the equivalent general population in Scotland. We propose to link the pupil census to Scottish Morbidity Records in order to examine health status. We are also using the Scottish Pupil Census to calculate the prevalence of learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders in children and young people in Scotland.

Results so far

Learning disabilities prevalence increased from 1.3% in 2008 to 2.3% in 2015. Autism prevalence increased from 0.7% to 1.7% over this period. The type of education attended by the majority of pupils with learning disabilities changed gradually from special to mainstream primary education, and the number of pupils attending mainstream secondary education slightly increased over this timeframe.

Conclusion 

Reported prevalence of learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder in Scotland among children has increased, potentially reflecting improved identification and recording of learning disabilities and autism within the education system. Data also suggests a gradual shift from special to mainstream education. Analysis of trends of deprivation, attendance, absence and attendance of pupils is ongoing.

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Page updated 1 May 2018