Are Mental Health Needs The Reason Behind High School Exclusions?


The Law Of… Supporting, Not Punishing, Mental Health Needs

Two studies have shown a disturbing relationship between mental health needs and school exclusions.

Emily Gent, Associate in Education and Community Care, takes a closer look at the consequences of excluding a child and what parents can do if their child has been in this situation.

Damaging A Child's Future

Data from the University of Exeter and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has shown that children with mental health needs such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder are more likely to be excluded from school.

Worryingly, it also showed that children who are excluded from school are at risk of developing mental health needs because of being expelled.

Research by the IPPR showed that:

  • Teachers in schools for children who have been excluded are 2 times as likely to not have any educational qualifications
  • 99% of children excluded from school will only manage to achieve 5 good GCSE results
  • 54,000 out of 86,000 prisoners had been expelled from school

Trapped In A Vicious Circle

Excluding a child from school can have disastrous consequences on their mental wellbeing and affect their education in the long term, according to the University of Exeter's research.

More than 5,000 responses from children, their parents, and their teachers were reviewed, which came from surveys collected by the Office for National Statistics. 

Professor Tamsin Ford, who led the study, found that for children who feel trapped at school or desperately unhappy being excluded is a "form of relief" from an "unbearable situation."

But, this relief is short-lived as once these children re-enter education, they will "behave even more badly to escape again" rather than being deterred from acting out.

The answer to this problem is to find different ways of dealing with issues with behaviour and addressing a child's mental health needs instead of punishing them.

"It's also important for parents to remember that it's unlawful for their child's school to exclude them on the grounds of their mental health needs, especially if they're aware of their needs", Emily explains.

Why Is This Happening?

A failure to diagnose mental health problems in children prior to them being excluded is a serious problem. Even if children don't have mental health problems when they are expelled, researchers found that they are likely to develop them within 3 years of their exclusion.

The school environment has been identified as being only part of the problem. Frustrated with the situation, the National Union of Teachers has criticised the school curriculum for being more like a 'manufacturing line' that only teaches children how to pass their tests rather than encouraging and supporting their desire to learn.

Such an environment could prove to be toxic for children.

The IPPR concluded that timely intervention is needed to prevent students from being at risk of exclusion. Generally, a lack of appropriate intervention too often results in exclusions.

Emily explains what you can do if your child has been unfairly excluded:

"If your child has been unlawfully excluded, Simpson Millar can help you proceed through the appeals process."

"The first step of the appeal will be to register it with the governing board of the school, or the academy trust. Should they decide to uphold the decision to exclude your child, a further appeal can then be made to the Independent Review Panel, who can scrutinise the decision further. Finally, there is the option of seeking a judicial review of the decision."

"Sadly, not all exclusions are lawful. Further, many excluded young people have special educational needs and if they have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) there's a chance that their school has discriminated against them. We can help you with Tribunal cases regarding both EHCP and discrimination matters."

"The Education Act 1996 places a duty on Local Authorities to ensure that every child of compulsory school age is provided with suitable education. If a Local Authority has failed to uphold this duty, Simpson Millar can contact the Local Authority on your behalf and help obtain a suitable form of education for your child."

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