Secondary analysis of the Millennium Cohort Survey: Sight impairment at ages seven and eleven

Background

The Millennium Cohort Survey (MCS) is a longitudinal survey of 19,000 children born in 2000. It covers a variety of topics including the children's health, wellbeing, behaviour, education and social experiences. In 2014 RNIB in partnership with the Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB) commissioned the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) to carry out statistical analysis of the MCS with the aim of identifying children at the age of eleven with a sight impairment and comparing their experiences with those of the other children in the survey who did not have a sight impairment. This follows an analysis of the MCS carried out in 2012 by NatCen for RNIB and RLSB to compare the experiences of children with a sight impairment at the age of seven with other children. Questions were asked of the children, their parents and teachers.

Because other research has identified differences in outcomes for children whose sight impairment is their only special educational need and/or disability (SEND) compared to children with a sight impairment and an additional SEND, the analysis looked at 3 groups of children with sight impairment:

  • Sight impairment only
  • Sight impairment plus additional impairment
  • All children with sight impairment (i.e. both groups combined)

The two reports are presented here. The latest analysis draws on information collected from approximately 12,000 children aged eleven, 233 of whom were identified as having a sight impairment. The earlier (2012) analysis was of nearly 14,000 children aged seven (357 with sight impairment).

Sight impairment at age eleven: secondary analysis of the Millennium Cohort Survey

Author: John Harris, Sue Keil, Chris Lord and Cheryl Lloyd, Publisher: RLSB, RNIB and NatCen, Year of publication: 2014

The full report can be found on this page, and the key findings below.

Key findings

  • Children with sight impairment at age eleven are less likely than their peers to feel they are able to do things as well as most other people, to play organised sport or physical activities, to make journeys on foot outside of school on their own or with other children, and more likely to feel tired at school all or most of the time
  • According to their parents and teachers, they are more likely to be nervous or clingy in new situations, to be bullied or picked on by other children, to often seem worried, and to be not well prepared for the transition to secondary school
  • They are also more likely to be living in poverty than other children
  • Children who have another disability in addition to a sight impairment are particularly at risk of emotional difficulties, being socially isolated and doing poorly at school
  • Children with sight impairment as their only disability are more likely to visit social networking sites than children without sight impairment and were more likely than other children to use their mobile phone to access the internet
  • Children with sight impairment (with or without additional SEND) were however, just as likely as other children to be happy with their family, with their friends, with their school and with their life overall.

Sight impaired at age seven: secondary analysis of the Millennium Cohort Survey

Author: John Harris, Sue Keil, Chris Lord and Sally McManus, Publisher: RLSB, RNIB and NatCen, Year of publication: 2013

The full report and two briefings can be found on this page, and the key findings can be found below.

Key findings

  • Children with sight impairment differed across a range of characteristics associated with wellbeing when compared with sighted children of the same age. For example, parents of children with sight impairment were significantly more likely than other parents to say that their child had emotional, concentration or behaviour difficulties; was often unhappy, downhearted or low; and wet the bed at least once a week.
  • For children with sight impairment and another impairment however, the differences were often greater and applied to a greater number of variables. This group in particular, was likely to have less exposure to social and cultural events, have fewer friends and do less physical activity.
  • There were clear differences between children with a sight impairment (with or without an additional impairment) and children with no sight impairment on a number of variables in relation to education, indicating different experiences of school and different levels of attainment between these two groups
  • Children with sight impairment were more likely to be experiencing difficulties with reading and writing than children with no sight impairment. There were also indications that a higher proportion may have been experiencing greater difficulties with maths and science although these differences did not reach statistical significance.
  • For children with sight impairment and another impairment the differences were often greater and applied to a greater number of variables in relation to their experiences of school and learning.
  • Children with sight impairment and another impairment were more likely to dislike school, to not like answering questions in class and to believe that their teacher 'never' thought they were clever. They were more likely to say they were bullied at school all of the time and to never feel safe in the playground. They were more likely to dislike reading, number work, science and PE. This dislike appears to be reflected in parent and teacher assessments of their academic attainment, with children in this group more likely to be experiencing difficulties with reading, writing, maths, science and PE and to be rated by their teachers as below or well below average at these subjects.
  • Children with sight impairment at age 7 (with and without another impairment) were much more likely than children without sight impairment to live in a family experiencing financial hardship.