Vulnerable pupils

We often look to see how groups of vulnerable young people are doing relative to their peers in our data sets.

We were recently prompted to look at young people who are young carers, who have special educational needs, who are attending PRUs, and who are in Special Schools.  The numbers from PRUs and Special Schools who completed any of our questionnaires are small, and they may not have answered the same set of questions, so this analysis is rather patchy. 

We looked in particular at their use of substances: tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.  The questions we asked of young people about these topics included:

23. Smoking: Which statement describes you best?
Answer Value
I have never tried smoking 0
I have tried smoking once or twice 1
I used to smoke, but I don't now 2
I smoke occasionally (less than once a week) 3
I smoke regularly but would like to give it up 4
I smoke regularly and don't want to give it up 5
We looked at two criteria from this question: the 'ever tried' group (1-5) and the 'regular smokers' group (4-5).
35. Have you ever had an alcoholic drink (a whole drink, not just a sip)?
Answer Value
Yes 1
No 0
Here we were interested in the 'Yes' group.
17. If you ever drink alcohol, do your parents/carers know?
Answer Value
I never drink alcohol 0
My parents/carers always know 1
My parents/carers usually know 2
My parents/carers sometimes know 3
My parents/carers never know 4
From this question, we looked at anyone who gave any but the first response (1-4).
 
Lastly on alcohol:
13. Have you had an alcoholic drink (more than just a sip) in the last 7 days?
Answer Value
No 0
Yes 1
And again we were interested in the 'Yes' response.
 
We asked two linked questions about drugs:
25. Have you taken any drugs to get high (not medicines, tobacco or alcohol)?
Answer Value
No 0
Yes 1
Young people answering 'Yes' were asked for more detail:
26. This question is about your EXPERIENCE of these drugs (not prescribed to you by a doctor)
[A list of drugs is given here]
Value Answer
0 I have never taken this drug
1 I have taken during the last month
2 I have taken during the last year
3 I took this drug more than one year ago
From these two questions, we found the most recent occasion that a young person had used drugs, if at all.
 
 
The results we see in our 2016 data set are as follows:
  All Year 8 Year 10 PRUS Young carer SPECIAL SCHOOLS SEN
Yes No Not sure Yes Yes No Not sure Yes
Ever smoked 20% 10% 31% 57% 22% 28% 35% 21% 16% 23% 23%
TOTAL Valid N 27,925 15,324 12,601 30 11,141 1,217 799 34 11,097 1,127 998
                         
  All Year 8 Year 10 PRUS Young carer SPECIAL SCHOOLS SEN
Yes No Not sure Yes Yes No Not sure Yes
Regular smoker 3% 1% 5% 20% 3% 6% 8% 9% 2% 4% 5%
TOTAL Valid N 27,925 15,324 12,601 30 11,141 1,217 799 34 11,097 1,127 998
                         
  All Year 8 Year 10 PRUS Young carer SPECIAL SCHOOLS SEN  
Yes No Not sure Yes Yes No Not sure  
Ever alcohol 30% 21% 41% 44% 28% 25% 28% . 33% 38%  
TOTAL Valid N 15,193 8,116 7,077 27 9,127 1,161 655   1,309 190  
                         
  All Year 8 Year 10 PRUS Young carer SPECIAL SCHOOLS SEN
Yes No Not sure Yes Yes No Not sure Yes
Ever alcohol 2 (from parent supervision question) 20% 14% 27% 32% 20% 21% 23% 10% 16% 17% 17%
TOTAL Valid N 42,734 23,840 18,894 65 22,279 2,798 1,621 66 14,260 1,568 1,268
                         
  All Year 8 Year 10 PRUS Young carer SPECIAL SCHOOLS SEN
Yes No Not sure Yes Yes No Not sure Yes
Alcohol last week 13% 7% 22% 17% 15% 13% 18% 5% 11% 13% 17%
TOTAL Valid N 27,791 15,570 12,221 48 14,935 2,219 1,206 21 5,513 413 466
                         
  All Year 8 Year 10 PRUS Young carer SPECIAL SCHOOLS SEN
Yes No Not sure Yes Yes No Not sure Yes
Never taken 94% 98% 88% 80% 94% 93% 91% 85% 94% 91% 92%
During the last month 3% 1% 6% 10% 3% 4% 5% 9% 3% 5% 4%
During the last year (not in the last month) 2% 1% 3% 4% 2% 2% 2%   2% 3% 3%
More than one year ago (not in the last year) 1% 0% 1% 2% 1% 1% 1% 6% 1% 1% 1%
[Incomplete] 0% 0% 0% 4% 0% 0% 0%   0%    
[Taken drugs to get high, no detail provided] 0% 0% 0%   0% 0% 1%   0%   0%
TOTAL Valid N 35,634 19,977 15,657 50 19,350 2,480 1,428 34 9,577 867 919

Overall, we can see a higher likelihood of substance experimentation or use if the young people are flagged as being vulnerable in any of the ways we looked at.  For example, young people who say they are young carers are more likely to be current or recent users of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. 

But the picture is not absolutely flat: for alcohol, we that some criteria show a difference but not others.  Also, some of the differences are small, and achieve statistical significance (not shown) only because of the large sample numbers involved (all the differences for the Young Carers and SEN Pupils groups are statistically significant at p<0.001).

Lastly, we haven't tried to take account of confounding variables like poverty; it may be the poverty is associated with a greater likelihood of being a smoker and of being a young carer, and that's what is causing the apparent association.

To reference this page, use the address:
http://sheu.org.uk/content/blog/vulnerable-pupils