Restrictive interventions in schools, such as seclusion and restraint, may actually make the problems they seek to solve worse, according to a mental health charity. The Centre for Mental Health (CMH) has conducted a review of recent literature on the impact of seclusion, restraint and exclusion on children’s mental health, and have found evidence which suggests such interventions can create a vicious circle of trauma, challenging behaviour, restriction and psychological harm.

The review, Trauma, challenging behaviour and restrictive interventions in schools found that one third of children are exposed to traumatic events before the age of 18, and a quarter of them will later develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the review young people who exhibit challenging behaviour in school are more likely to have experienced past traumas, and being subjected to seclusion, restraint or exclusion can then mirror the traumatic events that they have experienced.

The CMH are calling on the Government to take alternative approaches to managing challenging behaviour, which they say are less likely to cause or exacerbate childhood trauma or distress. These include positive behavioural support and creating ‘trauma-informed’ schools. According the CMH being ‘trauma-informed’ may help to prevent challenging behaviour by creating a safe environment where children are taught about their mental health and are helped to manage their emotions.

CMH chief executive Sarah Hughes 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.’

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: ‘Schools need to be safe and calm environments with effective behaviour management policies and approaches that meet the needs of all pupils. Restraint or restrictive intervention should always be a last resort and should be used in an appropriate way, with the pupil's best interests at heart.’

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