Isolating pupils within school can have a negative impact on their mental health and drive more challenging behaviour, a charity has warned.
The Centre for Mental Health produced a report today warning against schools using what it describes as restrictive interventions such as seclusion, exclusion or using restraint.
The report highlights controversy over the use of isolation booths in schools as an example of concerns around the way children are being secluded.
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The Centre for Mental Health says that young people who have experienced trauma in the past are especially at risk of experiencing psychological harm from being isolated in schools.
Fears about pupil isolation
It says that being secluded in schools can “echo relational trauma and systemic trauma” that children have already experienced in their lives.
And the centre's chief executive, Sarah Hughes, warned that increased use of exclusion by schools will not improve pupil behaviour.
She said: “The government’s election manifesto promised to take action to improve behaviour in schools, including greater use of exclusion.
"Our evidence review finds that we need a different approach to make schools safer and healthier places in which to learn and grow.
“Attempts to improve school discipline through restrictive interventions and exclusions will not work.
"For some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children, they will entrench behavioural problems, with lifelong consequences for them and their families.
"Helping schools to become trauma-informed is much more promising. As part of a ‘whole-school approach’ to mental health, it has the potential to benefit everyone, to make all children feel valued and understood and prevent exclusions and their devastating consequences.
Protecting children's mental health
“Our school years have profound and lasting effects on our mental health. The government has recognised this by investing in new mental health teams to go into schools and putting the subject on the curriculum.
"It must now take the next step and help schools to boost children’s mental health in the ways they manage behaviour and create a safe and consistent learning environment for all.”
The Centre for Mental Health report highlights the work of what it describes as trauma-informed schools.
It says: “Trauma-informed-schools, in contrast, seek to minimise the trauma-causing potential of the school environment. One aspect of this is using less emotionally harmful alternatives to restrictive interventions.
"A trauma-informed school also seeks to maximise the healing potential of the school environment. One way of doing this is through teaching young people about mental wellbeing.
"Another way is by creating a positive ethos, providing young people with a direct experience of reliable attachment figures and a safe and caring environment."