School exclusion is the ultimate punishment used in schools, but its effects do not end with changed behaviour at the return to school. In this article, we will give you some key information on how school exclusion affects a student and explain why these effects can be damaging in the long term, as well as showing the statistics and science behind them.
The effects of school exclusion on a student’s life cover many areas, from health to career to education. Mental health is especially damaged by school exclusion, with many students who are excluded going on to develop a mental health issue. Exclusion can cause low self-esteem and social isolation. In education and careers, school exclusion can decrease exam results, and also damage prospects in general. School exclusion can also cause a lack of respect for authority. These issues are a huge problem for individuals and societies, and they must be addressed.
Disclaimer: This article represents my personal opinion as a student. Much of the information provided in this article are formed from my personal experiences as a child going through school. This article should not be used in isolation when making decisions about your future and you should seek information from other qualified authorities on matters of mental health.
While this may have given you a surface answer for your query, this is a very complex issue. The effects of school exclusion are not easy to explain in few words, therefore, please read on to fully understand this issue and how it affects students.
What is School Exclusion?
School Exclusion is when a pupil is excluded from attending school or being in the classroom. It can be for a fixed period, or permanently, but there are no set rules on length. If a student is excluded for more than 5 days, they must attend a Pupil Referral Unit, or another school, but less than that they must complete work set by the school at home.
1. School Exclusion Can Cause Mental Health Problems
A study of thousands of UK school students by Exeter University, found that pupils with pre-existing mental health problems were more likely to be excluded, especially when in primary school. It also found that school exclusion caused a decline in mental health at all ages, but markedly in secondary school pupils. This decline did not always show immediately, but often caused larger issues down the line for pupils.
This study shows a well-understood belief: mental health is damaged by school exclusion. It also proved that even short-term exclusions of just a few days can cause larger issues down the line.
The mental health issues caused often included anxiety, depression, and behavioural difficulties. These issues not only relate to missing school, but also loss of confidence, low self-esteem, and social isolation, all of which often result from being excluded.
Some students can also be persistently excluded, as bad behaviour and exclusion become a cycle that they feel is not escapable. Not only does this cause the same mental health issues as before, but it also could lead to students being permanently excluded and therefore moved to a different school or a pupil referral unit. This leads to more anxiety as uncertainty and lack of a stable environment have been shown to cause stress.
To avoid this, schools could provide early interventions for mental health support. This support could come in the form of counselling or mentoring for students, to prevent the issue from spiralling into the punishment of exclusion. Also, this support is important for students who are excluded to receive help while returning to school to make sure they are not getting socially isolated and therefore helping their mental health.
2. School Exclusion Can Create Social Isolation
For many young people, the place where they meet their friends and hang out with them is in school. When excluded, they are suddenly cut off from any contact with people their age. This can damage the development of key social skills, especially in younger children. When students do not see their friends, the bond weakens and they may fall out or drift away, creating even more social isolation.
Outside of friendships, being excluded is taboo in most social circles, especially among parents. Therefore, parents may find out that a student has been excluded and tell their child not to talk to them, or that they are “trouble” and will ruin their reputation. This is negative because it may mean the student loses friends, or just cannot find new friends, and leads to mental health issues.
Also, when permanently excluded to a Pupil Referral Unit or to a home life which may have negative influences, students may be subjected to others who tell them to stop bothering with education, continue being excluded, or do other damaging behaviours which they may not have been exposed to within their other school. This can worsen isolation as students begin to fall in with a different group or lose the values they used to share with other friends.
3. School Exclusion Can Encouraging Negative Behaviour
For some students, especially those who struggle with school, exclusion can be a relief. They may feel it gets them out of the unbearable situation and gives them time away. It also can be seen as a “free day off” or holiday from schoolwork, especially if tests are coming up.
In this way, an avoidance cycle begins which is very hard for the student to break, especially without help. Negative behaviour is usually a cry for help with an issue, such as bullying, educational needs, or bad home life, and when treated with an exclusion, these issues can get worse and go unnoticed for longer, exacerbating the behaviour.
This behaviour is not good, as it often means the bad behaviour is masking a deeper mental health problem or learning difficulty which has been missed. The following Study shows that students with mental health problems and Special Educational Needs are disproportionately excluded more often than other students. This is especially true before an actual diagnosis. Also, students from deprived backgrounds are more likely to be excluded, showing that the system does not work fairly for all.
The effect of this “break” is that once the student returns to school, they may behave even worse to escape again. After many cycles of this, it could lead to permanent exclusion, and therefore a move to a new school, thereby creating more social isolation and mental health difficulties. This makes the use of exclusion counter-productive, as it encourages the behaviour it seeks to punish and therefore created a negative cycle where the student never gets the help they need.
4. School Exclusion Can Cause a Lack of Respect for Authority
For many pupils, school staff (especially head teachers or class teachers) are their role models. They look up to them and respect their authority and feel that they want their approval.
When a punishment such as exclusion is meted out, this can feel to the student like the staff are giving up on them, his damages their relationship. Students may begin to feel that the respect and effort that they are approached with is conditional on their behaviour, and therefore, that they have failed, and will not be paid any attention in future.
This is especially true when the student believes they do not deserve the punishment they are given, as this leads to feeling wronged or singled out for hate among the staff, which is not good for a positive relationship.
For this reason, students must be given respect and help, even when they have behaved negatively. Re-integrating students into school life after their exclusion is vitally important.
Meeting with the member of staff who they were excluded for or by (for instance for swearing at, or behaving badly with them), and giving them a chance to apologise and explain their actions is a great first step.
However, for some students, the exclusion from school could represent the drawing of a boundary about what behaviours are completely unacceptable. For young people, rules and lines of correct behaviour need to be enforced for the student to feel safe and secure in a school, so the use of punishments when they are merited, such as exclusion, can help with this.
5. School Exclusion Causes Students to Lose Learning Time and Effects Exam Results
Another result of school exclusions is a student misses time in school. When a student is excluded for 5+ days, they must attend a PRU (pupil referral unit) or another school in the area for the duration of the exclusion. If it is less than this, the school must still provide work for the child where possible, by post or online. This means that the learning loss is reduced, however, it is still very significant.
While the student is still receiving work at home, they are less likely to complete it when not in a school setting. This could be because they may feel that it doesn’t matter, and there is also less pressure on them to complete it to their best ability.
At home they are also unable to get help from their teachers about the work, or interact with other classmates in discussions, both of which decrease depth of understanding, and mean that learning is of lower quality. Lower quality learning affects exam results, as the content may not be remembered or shown to an accurate degree in an exam setting, therefore decreasing results, and damaging future chances.
Research has shown that missing school decreases their chances of performing well in exams. This absence includes any time spent excluded from school. Every day missed is associated with a “lower chance of achieving 5 or more good GCSEs”, especially in maths and English, which are the key subjects.
This is something that schools must consider before excluding pupils, as it may have a huge negative effect on their future chances. They must do all they can to continue to teach children while they are excluded, and especially make effort to catch them up once they return.
6. School Exclusion Can Give a Student a Reality Check
While there are many negative effects of exclusion, it can also have positive effects. One of the most cited positives is a “reality check” for the student. This is where a student may realise their behaviour is wrong and they need to improve. It can lead to the student working harder and getting better grades, and therefore improving their future and achieving their goals.
This can be positive as it means they have been spotted as needing support by the school. After the exclusion they can access more help that they need to achieve within the school and later in life.
After they return, the student may be evaluated for SEN or learning difficulties that may have been previously missed and therefore improve their behaviour. It is a chance for them to articulate the needs which have been missed that caused the bad behaviour, and therefore get them resolved. Also, in the case of permanent exclusion, the referral to a different school can be needed as the change in environment, as not all schools work for everyone.
The new school may have different facilities or a different teaching style which benefits the student and therefore helps them improve their behaviour. Also, being referred to a Pupil Referral Unit may help, as they often have smaller class sizes and more individual attention from specialised behaviour teachers, which can help them get back onto the right track.
7. School Exclusion Can Damage Future Prospects
The long-term effects of exclusion on a pupil’s life can be huge. Mental health difficulties, social isolation and decreased self-esteem can all have a huge effect on people’s lives.
It is estimated that the total cost of school exclusion to the state for each child over their lifetime is £370k. The cost to individuals, families, and the child themselves is likely to be much higher. This figure did not factor in the loss of employment opportunities, social isolation, stress-related illness cost or care costs (excluded children are much more likely to be in care) for the state or the child. This means that the cost is again likely very high.
Also, as mentioned previously, the exam result decrease related to missing school is a damaging factor for life prospects. If a student gets lower exam results, they may be unable to study their desired A-Levels and go on to a career of their choice. It also may mean that the student never reaches their full potential in life. Not only does this damage the student, but also society as we lose out on skills and careers which we need.
8. Lowering Self Esteem
Even after all this, one of the most damaging effects of school exclusion on students is the damage to their self-esteem. For many students, being excluded feels like a failure. They may feel like they are a bad person, or do not deserve help anymore, because their behaviour has been so bad that the school “doesn’t want to deal with them” anymore (this is of course, not true).
Even for students who are frequently excluded, being told yet again that they are not allowed to come into school can be a huge blow and make them feel like they are worthless, this contributes to the mental health issues caused by exclusion.
When nobody wants to be your friend, school can feel lonely and even harder than before, which can mean pupils act up to get attention, which increases the issue that the exclusion sought to punish. Having nobody to talk to also severely decreases self-esteem, as students begin to feel like they are evil or not with being friends with, or unlikeable. This can contribute to later attachment issues and mental health problems.
Schools Should Make Sure Help is Provided to Students Who Are Excluded
Schools should ensure that exclusion is accompanied by support such as counselling, reintegration meetings and assurance from staff that this is a punishment for a single incident and that they are still worthy of education and attention from staff. It is key to maintain this support to prevent recurring behaviour.
If you have been affected by the issues discussed in the article and need further support, the Childline phone number (0800 1111) provides free and confidential support as well as on their website, for young people who need it. For those struggling with mental health, the Mind website has support and guidance for many issues you could be facing.