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Our response to the Department for Education's behaviour management strategies consultation

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This submission provides YoungMinds’ response to the Department for Education's consultation on 'Behaviour management strategies, in-school units and managed moves'. 

The consultation sought to find out views from organisations and individuals on strategies to manage behaviour in schools. 

In order to respond to the consultation, we drew on insights from our Teachers' Insight Group. This group provides teachers with a forum to discuss pressing issues in their school, and share best practice and insights into YoungMinds campaigns and policy proposals. We also cited a number of different pieces of research where young people had been engaged with directly. 

You can see some of our key recommendations below.

Read our full response

We recommend that a whole-school approach to mental health, wellbeing and social and emotional learning is a key component to any behaviour strategy undertaken by the Department. This should be complemented and underpinned by a trauma-informed understanding of behaviour and mental health, which is particularly crucial given the upheaval and often, trauma and grief, experienced by young people over the past 18 months.

Fostering a sense of belonging in young people is integral to them viewing the school environment positively, thus allowing it to become a protective factor for their mental health. To increase a sense of belonging and involvement, where possible and appropriate we would recommend that behaviour policies are meaningfully co-produced with young people, ensuring that young people from groups who are disproportionately impacted by existing behaviour policies are included in the process.

For many young people whose challenging behaviour is the result of trauma, negative experiences in their lives both in and outside of school, or a diagnosable mental health condition or learning disability, inflicting isolation will not encourage the perception of school and school staff as a safe and supportive environment and community. We are therefore backing the calls to end isolation in school. 

We are pleased by the recent announcement of the decision to accelerate the rollout of Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) to reach 35% of schools by 2023, but this does not go far enough – particularly to help with COVID-19 recovery. Given that this means that 65% of schools will still not be able to access support from MHSTs by 2023, we believe that this rollout must be immediately expedited to reach more young people. This should be complemented by the immediate rollout of Designated Senior Leads for Mental Health.

It is imperative that all trusted adults who work with young people have access to continual training on mental health. For teachers, this means that there should be much greater focus on young people’s mental health in Initial Teacher Training, as well as further learning opportunities in their Continuing Professional Development. This should not be limited to teachers only, and should be rolled out in an appropriate format to all school staff.

Issues with attendance can often stem from young people struggling with their mental health. This can be for reasons both within and outside of the school environment, such as bullying, trauma, caring responsibilities or a stressful home environment. We recommend that the Department launches a review of attendance codes, in consultation with young people and parent-led organisations, to ensure that all families receive support and are treated with understanding if a child is struggling to attend school because of their mental health, rather than being threatened with sanctions.