A coalition of more than 200 charities, academics and children’s professionals is launching an inquiry to explore links between mental health and behaviour among school pupils.

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Concerns around schools in England using punitive approaches to tackle challenging behaviour have prompted the inquiry, which is being launched by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition.

Tactics used by schools include exclusion and placing children in isolation in so-called removal rooms.

The coalition fears there has been an increase in tough measures to curb challenging behaviour by schools following Covid-19 lockdowns.

It warns that such measures come amid escalating mental health problems among young people. One in six pupils aged between six and 16 have a mental health problem as of 2021, compared to one in nine in 2017, said the coalition.

Often challenging behaviour can be caused by “underlying conditions, unmet emotional needs, difficulties at home, at school or in the community, and exposure to trauma”, it added.

The inquiry will look at how current school policies impact on pupils and their families and ways schools can better safeguard young people’s wellbeing.

Children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing is one of the most pressing issues of our time, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Norman Lamb, Chair of Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition

“However, we are concerned that too often children are punished for behaviour that is linked to their mental health, and that such punishments can cause further harm.”

He added: “Through the inquiry, we want to understand the effectiveness of current approaches to behaviour management and how these impact on young people’s mental health. It is vital that we understand and address the drivers of poor behaviour. Many people are concerned that too often we punish children for the difficulties they face.’

The deadline for the inquiry’s call for evidence is 10 June.

There are three surveys available:

  1. Survey for Young People
  2. Survey for Parents & Carers
  3. Survey for Professionals & Practitioners

Geethika Jayatilaka, chief executive of Chance UK, which supports pupils’ wellbeing, told CYP Now this week that schools need to consider alternatives to excluding young people with challenging behaviour. This includes supporting children to develop their social and emotional skills “to help them keep calm, control impulses and remember instructions”.

Article originally reported in CYP Now

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