Mental health links to school exclusions in Southwark

London Democracy Reporter

Nearly 90 per cent of children in care in one borough who were excluded from schools in the last year had mental health problems.

A total of 51 children were booted out of schools in Southwark in 2018-19 – and of those, 86 per cent were known to its Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

The figures, gathered by Southwark council’s Virtual School, also showed that 47 per cent of the pupils in care who received at least one fixed term exclusion were recorded as having special education needs.

Special educational needs pupils are disproportionately excluded from schools nationally.

The figures showed that there were 108 fixed term exclusions of children in care, down from 145 the previous year, while two pupils were permanently excluded.

According to the report: “The most common reasons for exclusions were verbal abuse / threatening behaviour to an adult (17 per cent), physical assault on another pupil (14 per cent) and persistent disruptive behaviour (12 per cent).”

Nearly three times as many boys had a fixed term exclusion than girls – 73 per cent compared to 27 per cent – and the gap between genders is widening year on year.

The two permanent exclusions related to an incidence of violence and possession of a weapon.

Councillor Jasmine Ali, cabinet member for children, schools and adult care said.: “There is a very strong correlation between children with emotional, social and mental health difficulties and school exclusion.

“As a council we are proud to be leading the way in the area of children’s mental health and this report highlights just how necessary our work in this area is.

“We know that our looked after children are some of the most vulnerable children in our borough and have often had a very turbulent start to life.

“Across our school network there are examples of great work and there are some schools that are in need of more work to help understand children and young people with childhood adversity and trauma.

“Helping young people to stay in school is very much in their best interest long term so our £2m investment in CAMHS support for all our schools means they will soon be better placed to support children.”

Lynn Gradwell, director for Barnardo’s in London said: “Children in and leaving care have often experienced trauma, neglect and abuse, and are far more likely to be struggling with poor mental health.

“Rather than excluding these vulnerable children from school, we should be ensuring they get the mental health support they need.

“We know that exclusion too often leads to a ‘poverty of hope’ – reducing a child’s chance of gaining good qualifications and entering the workplace.

“Exclusions must be a last resort, and we must work together to help keep more children in the classroom.”

The latest Department for Education figures show that children in care are around 2.3 times more likely to be permanently excluded than children who have never been supported by social care.

A corporate parenting committee will be held on Wednesday to discuss the report.

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