At least half of pupils expelled from schools have a mental health issue, according to a new report.
Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank uncovered the worrying finding, warning the rate could be as high as 100% once diagnosed problems are taken into account.
Mike Parker, a leading North East education expert, said dealing with children who may behave in a disruptive way because of mental health issues is becoming harder all the time.
The director of Schools NorthEast said when a child with mental health problems is permanently thrown out of a school, it is symptomatic of an underlying resource problem.
He said: “There is a significant issue with mental health in our young people across the country and in the North East.
“It worries me greatly when I think about how we can support children in that respect.
“Schools only exclude people in the most significant cases and that is usually related to behaviour.
“Teachers know that mental health can impact on behaviour in the classroom and so exclusion is always treated as a last resort.
“Schools need to consider the needs of all children and ensure exclusion is only used when the education of the whole class is being impacted.
“But the fundamental issues comes down to what support is available for children outside of schools.
“Teachers are there to impart education and to help develop children as people – but they are not mental health professionals.”
IPPR’s evidence suggest the link between mental health and exclusion compounds problems later in those individual’s lives.
Virtually all pupils who are excluded from mainstream schools fail to gain five good GCSEs, potentially having a grave impact on their chances of finding employment.
And 63% of the prison population was excluded from school at some point, IPPR estimates.
Mr Parker said years of funding cuts to local authorities and increasing pressures on the NHS have eroded the network of resources available to schools to help them deal with pupils with mental health issues.
Without professional help, he said, schools can only do so much to reverse the trends revealed in the report.
He said: “Schools need support from other bodies to help support them.
“Austerity has stripped away the help around schools which they could rely on previously.
“Local authorities have fewer resources to draw on and the NHS is squeezed.
“So schools are having to try and deal with these complex mental health issues by themselves in some instances.”
Asked where he thought the spike in mental health issues among young people is coming from, Mr Parker said that modern kids are exposed to a cocktail of factors unlike any generation before them.
He said: “There is increasing pressure on children to perform at a young age – we’re putting them through important examinations at the age of 10.
“Once you throw social media and factors like that into the mix, it’s a different picture.
“Some children bend and some children snap – schools need help to stop them snapping.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Any decision to exclude must be lawful, reasonable and fair and we are clear permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort, in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy.
“This government is committed to working with local authorities and schools to ensure children in alternative provision receive a high quality education.
“We are strengthening the links between schools and NHS mental health staff and have announced plans for every secondary school to be offered mental health first aid training.
“Later this year will publish a green paper with proposals for further improving mental health services.”
Source : Chroniclelive