Living, Learning and Respecting Difference:

Going to School

A film for children and young people in Schools around what it is like to have a learning disability.

Introduction to Film

The aim of this short film was to provide a resource for Schools that could help to raise awareness about what school life is like for someone who has a learning disability. The collaborative team who developed this film hope that it will be used as a flexible resource to meet the needs of a range of teachers in the classroom setting when considering the needs of their student group.  

Initially, a member of the team visit Madeley High School, talking to many children and young people in the classroom to find out what they understood about disability, and what would be the best way of helping others to appreciate what school life could be like for someone who has additional needs. An evaluation of these sessions identified that:

  • film was a powerful media;
  • information to inform other children and young people about disability and about what it must be like to have a disability is important;
  • there are many similarities and differences between children and young people;
  • capturing and sharing experiences of bullying is likely to help others to understand the impact.

The use of visual media (incorporating illustrations, photography, film and video) has been perceived as a useful, flexible, reliable  and a cost effective way to record naturally occurring activities for further objective critical scrutiny by social researchers (Heath, Marsh & Luff, 2010), and also a welcome addition to the tools for education and training.  Visual methodologies and the critical study of visual culture within contemporary society are becoming increasingly popular in social science research (Rose, 2007), particularly around ethnographic research (Pink, 2009) and can provide access to a rich source of data, some of which can be used to help others to learn and to understand issues around sensitive topics.

The film is entitled ‘Living, learning and respecting difference: Going to School’ and has much flexibility of usage from an educational perspective. The film was developed by filming the interviews of children, young people, teachers and other professionals at Madeley High School, Madeley, Staffordshire   School and Blackfriars School in Newcastle, Staffordshire. The project team also held a competition amongst the children and young people to design and produce the logo for the film,  and thank you toKatie Neath for the artwork used throughout.

We remain indebted to the children, young people and teachers for warmly welcoming us into their Schools and sharing their unique experiences with us. Similarly, we must also thank members of the Staffordshire Police who kindly contributed to the making of this film. Thank you.

Suggestions for using the film

This film can be used in a variety of ways. In its entirety, it can provide important messages from the personal experiences of children, young people, teachers, and other professionals around what school life is currently like, and the challenges around supporting people with additional needs. The film is divided into five, short, themed chapters:

  1. What do children and young people think about School?
  2. Are all children and young people who come to School the same?
  3. Disability means different things to different people
  4. What are children and young people’s experiences of bullying?
  5. Dream and ambitions…

Therefore the film can be used in short sections, with a question preceding it, to explore what the students’ views are around a particular statement or question.

To help teachers to maximise the potential for using this film, we have provided a few questions that you may want to use in conjunction with using the film:

  • What do you like most about coming to School?
  • Are all children and young people treated the same or different in School?
  • Disability means different things to different people, how might you describe a person who has a learning disability?
  • How many people with a learning disability do you think live in England?
  • What do you think it is like to have a learning disability in this School?
  • What must it feel like to be bullied?
  • How might we help to stop bullying in the School?
  • Who might you turn to for help when you are being bullied?
  • What do you want to do when you grow up?

Of course if you are using the film in any educational capacity, it is vital that you familiarise yourself with it, so that you can maximise the value of its content.


This film was not developed to replace all education around what it’s like to have a learning disability in the School context but to complement existing resources whilst providing a focussed, accessible resource around this particular population. Whilst the film may not have all the answers to all of your questions, if it helps you to identify and explore the inherent issues when supporting children and young people with a learning disability in the classroom setting, then we have truly succeeded in developing this resource. A tool is only as good as the person using it, and we hope that you will explore ways of utilising this film to meet your needs and the needs of the children and young people you support.


Heath, C., Marsh, J., & Luff, P.  (2010).Video in qualitative research. London: Sage.

Pink, S. (2009). Doing sensory ethnography. London: Sage.

Rose, G. (2007). Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials. London: Sage.