Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Current Projects

Project Title:

An exploration of educational and employment outcomes for children with disabilities

Project Number:



Fiona Cox (University of St Andrews)
Alan Marshall (University of St Andrews)

Start Date:

7 July 2015



Evidence from cross-sectional and panel studies[1,2], qualitative research[3] and reports drawn primarily from snapshot Government statistics[4] indicate that children with disabilities face particular barriers to achieving success within and beyond education. However to date little or no longitudinal research has been published investigating the causal relationship between disability and education and employment outcomes. This lack has been noted by WHO in their World Report on Disability (2011) which repeatedly calls for more longitudinal research in order to “allow researchers and policy-makers to understand better the dynamics of disability” (p46).[5]

Education is often key to future participation in the labour market; the DWP ‘Fulfilling Potential’ report goes so far as to say that “for those who are born with an impairment or a health condition, education and other early life experiences influence the whole of their life chances.” (p30)[4]

A lack of robust measures and classification issues make it difficult to accurately estimate the numbers of children with a disability, though DWP statistics suggest that around 7% of children in the UK are covered by the Equality Act (approx. 0.9M children).[6]

The inclusion of more detailed health questions in the 2011 Census, along with the SLS’s linkage to education data from ScotXed has created a unique opportunity to conduct research in this area. The current project aims to investigate the influence of disability – and other possible confounding factors such as type of disability, parental disability and socioeconomic status – on educational attainment and first destinations after leaving school.


This project aims to use longitudinal data in order to untangle the factors influencing education and labour market outcomes for children with disabilities. The specific research questions are:

Education outcomes:

  1. Are children with disabilities more/less likely than their peers to be early leavers?
  2. How do qualifications achieved compare for those with/without disabilities?
  3. Are there differences between the groups in likelihood to go on to higher education?

Post-education outcomes:

  1. Are children with disabilities more likely to become NEET?
  2. Are there different socioeconomic outcomes for children with disabilities?

Depending on sample size, the research will also explore whether the above outcomes for children with disabilities are different when comparing:

  • Children reporting one impairment vs those reporting multiple impairments
  • Children who report that their impairment limits daily activities vs those for whom it does not


1. Blackburn, C. M., Spencer, N. J. and Read, J. M. (2010) Prevalence of childhood disability and the characteristics and circumstances of disabled children in the UK: secondary analysis of the Family Resources Survey. BioMed Central. Available at: (Accessed: 3 April 2015)

2. Burchardt, T. (2003) Being and becoming: Social exclusion and the onset of disability. CASEreport 21. Available at: (Accessed: 3 April 2015).

3. Ipsos Mori (2010) The Life Opportunities of Disabled People: Qualitative research with people with learning, memory and neuro-diversity impairments. Office for Disability Issues. Available at: (Accessed: 3 April 2015)

4. DWP (2013) Fulfilling Potential – building a deeper understanding of disability in the UK today. Available at: (Accessed: 3 April 2015)

5. World Health Organization (2011) World Report on Disability: 2011. Switzerland: World Health Organization. Available at: (Accessed: 3 April 2015)

6. DWP (2014) Family Resources Survey 2012 to 2013. Department for Work and Pensions. Available at: (Accessed: 7 April 2015)

Related Outputs (viewable on CALLS Hub):

Explore the variables held in the SLS data dictionary.

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