Exclusion from school 'a major inequality factor which cannot continue to be overlooked'

By agency reporter
August 7, 2019

Samaritans Cymru has released a report on the causes and damaging effects exclusion from school in Wales can have on children and young people. The report, titled Exclusion from education in Wales: The hidden cost, highlights school exclusion’s connection to a cycle of inequality and the urgency of addressing the issue due to its link to suicide risk.

The report and considerations are based on engagement with representatives from schools, local government, the health service, third sector organisations, universities and Welsh Commissioners through a roundtable event earlier this year. The issue of exclusion from education in Wales had previously been raised in Samaritans Cymru’s report on poverty and suicide in 2018. This report stated that there is a strong connection between socioeconomic deprivation and suicidal behaviour and highlighted that exclusion from education should be scrutinised further, due to its impact on loneliness and social isolation for children and young people, particularly in areas of deprivation. Their new report once again highlights poverty as a key cause and consequence for exclusion across Wales.

Samaritans Cymru has highlighted the 51 per cent rise since 2015/16 in pupils permanently excluded from schools in Wales and set out their key findings on the main causes behind the use of exclusion based on their engagement. Poverty, poor mental health, additional learning needs (ALN) and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were all identified as some of the main causes with inequality being the overarching theme and cause.

They highlighted that exclusion from education is a significant issue which is linked to a wide range of factors and consequences that cam increase the risk of suicide, such as poverty, loneliness and social isolation, alcohol and substance misuse, poor mental health, homelessness and the criminal justice system.

Sarah Stone, Executive Director for Wales said: “The striking and overarching theme of our engagement on this topic is that exclusion from education is a major inequality issue. Whether we look at the cause or causes at one end of the scale, or the consequences at the other, the links between inequality and exclusion are concerning and prominent. Investment in being able to identify and help those at risk of experiencing exclusion is urgently needed.

“In Wales, we work to reduce the number of people who die by suicide. Much of the work needed to achieve this is rooted in prevention and reaching high-risk groups early on. If you’re out of school, you can be out of your only source of support and community. We need to protect children and young people from actions which can negatively affect their future lives.”

Samaritans Cymru have set out nine points of consideration which they believe could help reduce the use of exclusion in Wales. Most prominently, they have urged Welsh Government, educational leaders and staff, the health and social care sector and wider support agencies to recognise this link between exclusion and inequality.

Based on the findings, they have once again called on Welsh Government to set out a Wales Poverty Strategy. Poverty in Wales affects education, health, social mobility, child development and life expectancy. Most significantly they say, poverty can increase the risk of suicide.

Samaritans Cymru have called for a centralised strategy for poverty which promotes cross-governmental and cross sectoral involvement. They continue to believe this is imperative for such a major public health issue, which interacts with a complex range of co-existing factors including educational disadvantage and exclusion. In Wales, they believe we need a strategy which addresses the impact of poverty on individuals and communities and sits alongside economic strategies. In terms of school exclusion specifically, they state that a strategy of this kind could work to implement a preventative approach to reducing high rates amongst those pupils who are most deprived who continue to account for a high percentage of the cohort of those excluded.

Samaritans Cymru hope this report will contribute to this much needed debate and stimulate further thinking, understanding and action.

Dr Rachel Evans, Clinical Psychologist and member of Psychologists for Social Change said: "We, Psychologists for Social Change South Wales, thank Samaritans Cymru for bringing this issue to the public's and policy maker's attention. From a psychological perspective, it is 'normal' for children and young people’s behaviour to fluctuate and this is especially true when circumstances are difficult.

"When children are displaying distress through behaviours which others find difficult to manage, the response needed is one of compassion and understanding from those around them. Children and young people rely on adult relationships to support them emotionally. The opposite to this is to dismiss them with exclusion from the school or within the school (through restrictive practises such as time out, being placed in “ready to learn” or other isolation methods). There are always understandable reasons for children and young people’s emotional and behavioural upset and excluding them is at best ineffective in resolving issues and at worse perpetuating and deepening distress as this report points out."

* Anyone can contact Samaritans for free, in confidence, at any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. The number will not show up on your phone bill.

* Download Exclusion from school in Wales: the hidden cost here

* Samaritans https://www.samaritans.org/

[Ekk/6]

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