A growing amount of youngsters facing mental health issues has partly been blamed for a rise in pupils excluded from Wrexham’s schools.
A report has shown children in the county lost the equivalent of more than eight years worth of education as a result of being excluded during the last full school year.
Wrexham Council’s head of education said he felt the spike to more than 900 exclusion orders made in 2017/18 was partly influenced by social factors.
As a result, Ian Roberts has called on politicians to maintain the amount of funding available for pupil counselling services.
Speaking at a meeting of the authority’s lifelong learning committee, he also told members that budget cuts were having a negative impact on the number of support staff.
He said: “Behaviour is a consequence of something happening in that person’s life. It’s maybe something that’s happening at home, maybe something out in the community or it may be a health diagnosis.
“We all know that with our young people these days, the trends in terms of their mental, emotional and social health are concerning.
“Waiting lists for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are high, but there is threshold below CAMHS and that’s where our young people receive counselling services from the local authority.
“I have to say it that when we’re stretched for budgets, we need to ensure as an education department that we are able to convince the decision makers that we really need to maintain our counselling services at the rate they currently are.
“The output from our counselling services is excellent, but our waiting lists for counselling services are too high so we’re struggling with the capacity that we have let alone if we reduce capacity.
“There is an inevitability that with larger class sizes, less budget and less intervention work from learning support assistants, the support to access the curriculum will be reduced.”
There were a total of 3,162 days where youngsters were banned from class between September 2017 and July last year, compared to 1,340 in 2015/16.
The report shows the main causes were threats towards adults and persistent disruptive behaviour.
Mr Roberts said local authority staff and headteachers were committed to reducing the number.
However, Cllr Phil Wynn (Ind), lead member for education said the figures needed to be viewed in the context of there being around 18,000 pupils across Wrexham.
He said: “If you actually work out how many school days there were if they all attended, we’re talking about over three and a half million school days.
“I’m not saying that we’re going to be complacent, but I want to put the number of exclusion days into context.
“We’ve also got to recognise that behaviour in schools is just an extension of that child’s behaviour for the majority of their week, which is outside the school.
“I’m aware that there are certain things going on in our young people’s lives that probably do contribute to their behaviour in schools.
“So if our secondary school pupils are up until midnight on their iPads, and there is quite an admission of taking alcohol and attending school without a breakfast inside them, these are all contributing factors.
“There is a cohort of pupils we need to look at more closely.”
The committee voted to support the measures being taken to reduce the number of exclusions.
It includes money being invested into behaviour centres in the area and providing training so that school governors understand the importance of having robust behaviour policies.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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