Children need nurture not exclusion - #AspireNotToExclude

Nurtureuk CEO Kevin Kibble responds to: “Dozens of five-year-old pupils excluded for bad behaviour” in The Times

In yesterdays Times article (29 August 2018): “Dozens of five-year-old pupils excluded for bad behaviour”  contains shocking statistics on the age and gender of children in Pupil Referral Units.  It quotes statistics from January this year showing that 1,572 children aged 10 or younger, and 58 aged just 5 years old, are being educated in these units for children who can’t attend school due to exclusion, illness or awaiting a school place.  Quite rightly the article was accompanied by calls for no children to be excluded from primary schools.

At nurtureuk, we know from close to 50 years’ of working with children in schools that all behaviour is communication and that children who experience behavioural difficulties at school are often dealing with complex and difficult issues.  For example, a survey of 100 nurture groups (the only intensive psychosocial intervention supporting children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties available full-time while allowing students to remain a part of their mainstream class) found the majority of children accessing nurture groups were shown to have experienced significant trauma.  These included separation from family, exposure to family conflict, abuse, divorce, a new home or school, illness and hospitalisation, death of a loved one, parental substance abuse exposure and maternal depression – 19% of students in primary school nurture groups and 42% in secondary school nurture groups have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder, most commonly ADHD (Scott Loinaz, 2014).  These children need support access education, not exclusion.

Nurtureuk is concerned about the numbers of exclusions across all schools in England, secondary as well as primary.  We much more can be done in early intervention and prevention within schools to support children and young people at-risk of exclusion to remove barriers, so they can continue to access mainstream education.  That is why, earlier this year in Parliament we launched our #AspireNotToExclude campaign to call for all schools to embrace nurturing approaches to support children in school, instead of using exclusion as a response to challenging behaviour. We are calling for: 

• schools and teachers to assess the social, emotional and wellbeing needs of their pupils through the Boxall Profile, so they can plan effective support and early-interventions and monitor how effective these are; 
• schools to adopt a whole-school approach to support the mental health and wellbeing of all pupils and staff, such as the National Nurturing Schools Programme; 
• children with social, emotional and behavioural to have access to a classic Boxall Nurture Group, which have been proven to improve the social, emotional and behavioural wellbeing of children and young people, and to reduce exclusions.

We know that nurturing approaches empower schools to support children with behavioural difficulties in school and reduce exclusions.  One participant in our national nurturing schools programme told us: 

“Overall, since the first year the nurture group began we have reduced exclusions in our school by 84%.  In 2017 we enrolled on the National Nurturing Schools Programme and as a result, from the start of this current academic year, we have achieved 3 out of 4 terms with no exclusions at all” (Sarah Beaumont, Assistant Headteacher and SENCO, Landsdowne Primary School).

It is vital that all children in schools have access to nurturing approaches and are supported to access education, not removed from school.  All schools must #AspireNotToExclude.