School children need specialist support not behaviour management strategies

Apr 04, 2022

Last week, the education secretary Nadhim Zahawi launched a schools white paper outlining an ambitious programme for primary and secondary schools in England.

This white paper stressed that good behaviour is the key to academic success and mentioned consultations which are occurring in how to effectively manage behaviour, such as by using suspensions and permanent exclusions.

However, this position fails to recognise the key message that behaviour is a form of communication and that it is difficult to differentiate clinically significant behaviours from development conditions or oppositional defiant disorder.

There are many underlying clinical conditions to behaviour problems in schools which include:

·      Anxiety disorders

·      Self-regulation disorders

·      Neuro diversity

·      Lack of Social skills

·      Trauma

Ealy identification and treatment of these conditions are essential in breaking the pattern of escalating problems which are likely to lead to more significant difficulties.

Therefore, instead of adopting stricter behaviour management policies, what schools need to be able to offer are specialist resources which can support the diagnosis and treatment of the conditions.

Broader changes are also needed:

1. At a whole school level. The whole school model is what it says, it’s a model of mental health support for the whole school community. This includes finding ways to support vulnerable children.

2. Teacher level – realistic targets need to be set together with a behavioural management programme. Teachers are already stretched and unable to implement.