Pupils with ADHD are often attention seeking, impulsive and find it hard to concentrate. Boys make up 80 per cent of reported cases. ADD has long been recognised in the United States, where it is seen as a neurological disorder. Programmes have been set up to treat pupils, involving teachers, doctors and parents.
But some doctors in the UK say that while the disorder is increasing alarmingly classroom diagnosis is not improving, simply because teachers are not aware of ADHD.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Rashmin Tamhne, who practises in Leicester, is treating up to four cases a week - 12 months ago he had none. "ADHD is a rising problem. Teachers need to be told what things to look for so that an ADHD sufferer is not just dismissed as an ill-behaved kid," he said.
Dr Tamhne wants more research into the disorder and a programme of tuition involving teachers, parents, GPs and therapists.
Professor Eric Taylor of the Institute of Psychiatry and a specialist on ADHD, said: "The biggest time when the disorder presents is around the age of seven when the play activity base starts giving way to stronger work demands and the pressure starts.
"More boys than girls appear to be referred because there is a different cultural attitude between girls and boys. The concern is often much greater when a boy is showing signs of ADHD rather than a girl because people fear a boy's potential violence."
Professor Taylor joins Dr Tamhne in advocating ADHDresearch and tuition, but as far as the teaching bodies are concerned it may not be as simple as that.
"You cannot expect teachers faced with classes of up to 40 children to walk around with a medical dictionary under their arm and open it every time a child is being disruptive or not paying attention," said a spokesman for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.
Gareth James, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that more and more members were ringing up for advice. "We need to know more about ADD, " he added "but the demands on teacher time are so overcrowded that it is a case of 'get on with the medical research, and circulate us with information when you've found it'."
The children's mental health charity, Young Minds, has issued a resource sheet. Available from 102-108 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5SA.