Exclusion Figures Prove We Need to Tackle Root Causes Behind Bad Behaviour

31/07/2012 08:35 BST | Updated 29/09/2012 10:12 BST

When you see an unruly child making a scene at school it's easy to dismiss them as irresponsible and reckless. What people don't realise is that behind inappropriate and erratic actions often lies a tragic story.

Barnardo's is calling on schools to recognise and help tackle the causes and not just the symptoms of bad behaviour. Unruly actions can be a reflection of pupils' challenging past and intervening early to tackle discipline problems before they become entrenched is in everyone's interest.

Behavioural problems can have their roots at home or in the community, such as drug addicted parents or domestic abuse. We know this because we work with those children and help them when they have nowhere else to turn.

Barnardo's High Close School in Wokingham is an independent special school working with 'unruly children'. Their complex social, emotional and behavioural difficulties mean that every single pupil has a statement of special educational needs.

Courtney is one such pupil at the school who features in a new documentary being broadcast tonight and her story is heartbreaking.

At 12 years old, Courtney has seen and experienced things no one would want a child to go through. She is one part of four generations of women who have suffered unhealthy relationships including domestic abuse.

This family history has left Courtney with a tough start in life. She has been diagnosed with HDHD and her uncontrollable anger and disruptive behaviour got her excluded from school, at which point Barnardo's took her in.

Like Courtney many of the pupils at High Close School have had a complicated start in life, and many also have special educational needs, with 95% having two or more needs identified and 22% with five or more.

Courtney's key worker says she has plenty of potential but as her teenage years get closer her behaviour is deteriorating fast. This is why we must get to the root of the problem as early as possible. The sooner we determine the cause behind pupils' unruliness the more we can help them improve their behaviour.

Last week, statistics released by the Department for Education showed that children with special educational needs are nine times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than those without. This is a rise from eight times the previous year.

What chance do these children stand if we give up on them so early in life? When their behaviour stems from the circumstances they were born into and had no control over, you have to ask yourself, where is the justice?

Building the right relationships with pupils and never giving up on a child can improve their life and the lives of those around them so much.

There is no time machine, we can't go back and change the devastating pasts of thousands of children across the UK. But at Barnardo's we believe that by never giving up on a child, we can help to give them a better future.