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No need to exclude: working together to end exclusions in Devon


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With thanks to the following:

Primary Schools

  • Bearnes Voluntary Primary School
  • Broadclyst Community Primary School
  • Chudleigh C of E (VC) Community Primary School
  • Countess Wear Community School
  • Great Torrington School
  • Marpool Primary School
  • Offwell C of E (VC) Primary School
  • Okehampton Primary School
  • St Martin’s C of E Primary & Nursery School
  • Whipton Barton Junior School
  • Wynstream Primary School

Secondary Schools

  • Coombeshead Academy
  • Dartmouth Academy
  • ISCA Academy
  • Okehampton College
  • Pilton Community College
  • St Peter’s Church of England Aided School
  • Tiverton High School

Special / Medical Schools

  • Marland School
  • Devon Hospitals Short Stay School


  • Youth Service – Space

Project Managers

Claire Thomson, Head of Specialist Services and Safeguarding, Devon County Council
Marc Kastner, Commissioner, Devon County Council

Project Governance

Devon Inclusion Board

A toolkit for supporting inclusion for school leaders, staff and governing boards - Introduction

All children and young people have a right to a full time education. However too many children are being excluded from school, many of which are illegal exclusions that fail to take into account the legislation surrounding every child’s right to an education. The main reason that children and young people get excluded from educational settings is because they are unable to manage their emotional distress and schools cannot manage the resulting behaviours. Evidence presented to both the Government select committee and to the House of Lords which led to the publication of Mental Health and Behaviour in schools demonstrates that there is a high correlation between children and young people being unable to manage emotional distress and having speech, language and communication difficulties (SLCN). This is true both for those difficulties we see presented externally as behaviour difficulties and also for conditions such as anxiety disorders. Some of our most vulnerable young people who may have had adverse life experiences develop social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs which results in behaviour that often further excludes them from society. These needs, undiagnosed have a significant impact on life chances and in some cases exposes them to safeguarding risks.

“Today, we face the scandal of ever-increasing numbers of children being excluded and being left abandoned to a forgotten part of our education system which too often fails to deliver good outcomes for these young people.” Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee Excluded are the forgotten children

The Government’s response to the Education Select Committee on alternative provision is clear that schools should use permanent exclusion only as a last resort but questions if there is enough support for schools and teachers in taking proportionate and measured steps to ensure good behaviour in schools. As a result increasing numbers of pupils are excluded. Families that believe that school cannot meet the needs of their child often feel that their only alternative is to move school or in some cases home educate.

The SEND Code of Practice sets out clearly that schools and colleges have a duty to ensure that they have clear strategies and processes to support children and young people who are displaying challenging behaviour as a result of undiagnosed need. This represents a shift away from focussing on behaviour to instead emphasising effective identification of need, understanding of the impact of speech, language and communication needs or the impact on pupils social, emotional and mental health that this can have.

This toolkit aims to address this and offer schools and settings guidance and support to meet the needs of all pupils. It will add context to the Devon Graduated Response Tool, align with the Early Help toolkit and will have a focus on supporting schools to identify and meet the needs of pupils at risk of exclusion.

The toolkit has been produced in conjunction with schools and professionals working across Devon who have given up their time to attend consultation and listening events and provided case studies and examples of good practice. In producing the toolkit, we have also sought the views of children and young people who have been excluded from the school system to address where we have failed to listen to pupil voice. It is the intention that this document should evolve and will be reviewed annually as we seek to continually improve inclusive practice across Devon and ensure every child has access to a full time education.

“Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour” The SEN Code of Practice 2015


The national context

There is a substantial body of research evidence to suggest that undiagnosed needs have a significant impact on all aspects of the lives of children and young people, including their learning and progress through the curriculum, behaviour in school and attendance, further training and employment and general life chances. Nationally, evidence suggests that the majority of children and young people attending Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) have some form of language or communication disorder, the majority of these are undiagnosed. The ministerial forward by in Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision (July 2018) highlighted the research that has indicates that one in ten (around 850,000) children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition which impacts on their childhood and can have a devastating impact on physical health, their relationships and life outcomes.

“Between 2006/7 and 2012/13, the number of permanent exclusions reduced by nearly half, but has since risen, with a 40% increase over the past three years. In 2015/16, 6,685 pupils were permanently excluded from school. In the same year there were 339,360 fixed period exclusions.” Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions, Government Select Committee

The local context

As part of the ‘No Need to Exclude’ strategy, the Inclusion Board has developed a toolkit for inclusion to support working towards a system which advocates no reason to resort to exclusion. In 2018 Babcock LDP undertook a series of consultation events across Devon on behalf of Devon County Council. These events were well attended by a range of settings across all key phases and aimed to gather feedback from schools and other stakeholders to enable a better understanding of the challenges facing the education system in Devon and to develop a strategy to work towards a position where schools no longer feel the need to exclude given the continuum of provision and support available to enable them to meet need. The consultation events outlined a number of key challenges that schools were facing that were impacting the ability of schools to support pupils with challenging behaviour. It also included some initial training on the impact of undiagnosed SLCN and made links with the Devon County Councils Improving Access to Communication Services and Support Project.

Devon data

The table below shows the significant increase in permanent exclusions in Devon over the past 5 years:

Year 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Total number of permanent exclusions upheld 73 63 87 13 118

Added to this, 59% of the 118 permanent exclusions in Devon in 2017/18 were for children with identified special educational needs. In primary schools SLCN is the main category of need however across Devon secondary schools SEMH is now the main category of need in SEN support. Current research undertaken by organisations like ICAN suggests that primary school pupils identified as having SLCN become secondary pupils whose main SEN is identified as behavioural, emotional or social difficulties, now outlined under the SEND Code of Practice as SEMH. This highlights the importance of schools and settings developing practice that increases the understanding how undiagnosed need impacts on pupils ability to regulate behaviour.

There has been recent exposure of the hidden side of exclusion which includes children and young people who are electively home educated as a result of schools not meeting need. In Devon the numbers of electively home educated children has steadily increased with a 100% rise in the last five years with increasing figures stating anxiety or medical need as a contributing factor. This, when correlated with national figures on the rise in pupils accessing children and adolescent mental health services places an emphasis on giving schools and educational establishments the tools to be able to recognise the signals and put in place early interventions to support pupils at risk.

The aim of the toolkit

The aim of the toolkit is to end exclusions in Devon by:

  • Ensuring that all stakeholders understand that disruptive behaviour is usually a reflection of undiagnosed special educational needs
  • Empowering governors with the necessary information to challenge ineffective inclusive practice
  • Equipping school leaders and senior teams with relevant tools and knowledge to support the needs of the most vulnerable within the school community
  • Giving class teachers an understanding of behaviour as communication and to signpost to effective techniques to support quality first teaching
  • Enabling schools to effectively engage with parents and carers
  • Ensuring all children and young people access the support they need to flourish
  • Linking with the Education Inclusion Service, the Graduated Response Tool and Early Help to provide Devon schools with a convincing rationale and an inclusive mind-set to work to enhance the wellbeing of all members of the school community

Studies such as Sentence Trouble by The Communication Trust have shown that 90% of pupils excluded from mainstream schools had some form of speech, language and communication needs. In addition at least 60% young people within the youth justice system were found to have communication needs.

Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) will have difficulties in communicating with others and understanding what is being said to them. This might be because they have difficulty communicating what they want to say, understanding what is being said to them or in processing communication. In many cases children and young people with SLCN will have difficulty understanding the social rules.

Further research is underway to establish the extent of the challenges in SLCN for pupils with behaviour difficulties, those excluded from school and young people who may be offending or in custody. However current research indicates that two thirds (up to 80%) of these pupils have significant SLCN on standardised assessment. Studies indicate that pupils who are excluded are 12 times more likely to end up in prison.

The children and young people who are at the greatest risk of school exclusion are those with unidentified SLCN (Clegg, 2004). Earlier research shows that this is not a new issue: 90% of pupils excluded from mainstream school had language impairments, the majority of them unrecognised. Burgess and Bransby, 1990 

The following diagram is helpful in understanding the impact of speech, language and communication needs:

Flow chart showing the impact of speech language and communication needs

It is important to develop a whole school approach to identifying SLCN. Research on effective strategies and intervention for this group is just beginning. However, professionals suggest that working on quality first teaching and supporting pupil’s social understanding and pragmatic language is most likely to lead to effective intervention. The earlier this intervention can begin the higher the chance of positive outcomes, especially if the intervention occurs pre-exclusion. The Communication and Interaction Team have a range of resources on their website including the Universally Speaking Primary and Secondary Checklist which can help identify if a child or young person is likely to have SLCN, and a power point on quality first teaching to use for staff CPD. The work undertaken by the Improving Access to Communication Services and Support Project is working to shape the future of speech language and communication services in Devon however there are important steps that professionals can take within schools to ensure that staff recognise the indicators that children and young people display when SLCN is impacting on their ability to access education.

A good place to start is some of the links to training and further resources in the grid below.

Strategy ideas Type of resource Impact
Devon Enhanced Language Programme (DELP) A free training programme for all Devon Primary and Secondary schools. Increase staff confidence in meeting the needs of children with SLCN.Build school capacity to support children with SLCN.Improve access, engagement and outcomes for pupils with SLCN.
ELKLAN Training 10 week accredited training for those working with 11-16 years. Provides strategies to develop communication skills of all young people but particularly for those with SLCN.
The Communication Trust The Communication Trust recognises the challenges that both parents and school staff have in negotiating a wide range of labels and terms. It has a number of resources to support schools and settings.

Don’t Get Me Wrong – Aims to help staff and parents better understand how a child’s diagnosis may or may not link to their SLCN. There are also stories about a number of young people and information on how staff can support the children and young people in their setting.

Sentence trouble – This programme has been written for everyone that works or volunteers in Youth Offending Teams (YOT), Secure Children’s Homes, Secure Training Centres and Young Offenders’ Institutions (YOI). It may be useful for those working with pupils displaying more complex behaviour.




Explains SLCN and the links between SLCN and named impairments and difficulties.



Improve understanding and communication with children and young people, with communication needs.


ICAN ICAN is the children’s communication charity which provides information, training and advice for skilled early year’s practitioners, speech and language therapists and teachers to deliver interventions and programmes that improve children’s speech, language and communication skills. The approaches it advocates are based on the best evidence available so that children receive help that gets results. ICAN evaluates all their programmes to show evidence of impact.

ICAN programmes help schools and early years settings develop communication skills across the curriculum, and narrow the gap between the lowest and highest attaining children.

AFASIC AFASIC is a charitable organisation that provides support for parents and carers including a helpline. AFASIC has some useful downloadable and accessible resources for parents, carers and professionals.
NAPLIC NAPLIC is an established national organisation of teachers, speech and language therapists and other professionals. NAPLIC exists to promote and increase the awareness and understanding of children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, amongst all the professionals involved in meeting their needs.
Youth justice websites A range or organisations and websites have suggested ways to support children and young people in the prison system, which have relevance for children and young people who are excluded from school. Developing understanding of the impact of SLCN and the criminal justice system.
Resource Bank Power – SLCN and Exclusion Powerpoint to be delivered as staff CPD. Develop staff understanding of the link between SLCN and exclusion.

“It is important to recognise that behaviour does not exist in isolation, but is the result of underlying needs and processes. As such behaviour cannot be managed, developed or changed in isolation of underlying needs.” Matt Jones and Catherine Dunnett, Leads in Attachment Based Mentoring

The change in terminology in the 2014 Code of Practice of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) – which replaces the Behaviour and Social Difficulties (BESD) with SEMH difficulties – helps to promote a shift towards viewing behaviour as a communication of an emotional need (whether conscious or unconscious), and responding accordingly.

In order to support children we must understand how to meet their underlying emotional and developmental needs, not just manage the symptoms. Knowledge of children’s learning, language, communication and social and emotional needs is therefore vital in understanding how to support children to develop more helpful behavioural patterns and responses.

For many children behaviour is adaptive, based on a response to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – traumatic events that affect children whilst growing up. Adaptive behaviours will vary and may involve both ‘acting out behaviours’, such as verbal and physical aggression, defiance and absconding, but may also be ‘passive behaviours’, such as disengaging, avoiding risks and withdrawing. For these children behaviourist approaches often serve to re-traumatise them and do not teach them how to express their emotions in a more appropriate manner.

For some children their behaviour is a response to an unmet need in relation to learning, language or communication. A good starting point for this is the Graduated Response Tool.

In order to promote inclusion and reduce exclusions, schools should employ a graduated response to meeting children and young people’s SEMH needs. This starts with a whole school ethos of care and nurture and a whole school commitment to understanding and supporting social, emotional and mental health. It includes quality first teaching for all students, ranging to targeted interventions for groups and individual children with more complex needs.

Support should be on three levels:

  • Preventative: Developing strong relationships and maintaining clear boundaries
  • Regulatory: Developing understanding of how to co-regulate children in order to cope with difficult situations
  • Restorative: Repairing relationships when things go wrong, exploring natural consequences.

These supports should be captured and communicated in policies and procedures, as well as practice. Examples of this can be found on the Inclusion Toolkit Resource Bank

In 2015 the Department for Education reported on research showing that emotional health and wellbeing has a significant impact on educational outcomes and behaviour. The key findings of this research were:

  • children with positive friendships are more engaged
  • children with better emotional wellbeing make more progress in primary school and are more engaged in secondary school
  • children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing, on average, have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school, both concurrently and in later years

“For children who really struggle at school, exclusion can be a relief as it removes them from an unbearable situation with the result that on their return to school they will behave even more badly to escape again. As such, it becomes an entirely counterproductive disciplinary tool as for these children it encourages the very behaviour that it intends to punish. By avoiding exclusion and finding other solutions to poor behaviour, schools can help children’s mental health in the future as well as their education.” Professor Tamsin Ford

National education policy and guidance

Growing concerns about children’s mental health and research showing the impact on educational outcomes have resulted in social, emotional health and wellbeing increasingly being recognised in national educational policies and guidance.

The crucial role schools and their workforce have to play in this area has been reinforced in a number of reports and guidance documents in recent years:

Amanda Spielman has revealed the direction of thinking for the new Ofsted framework from September 2019 and a consultation was launched in January 2019. The ‘personal development, welfare and behaviour’ judgement in the current framework will be split into two distinct areas. This change recognises the difference between behaviour and discipline in schools, and pupils’ wider personal development and their opportunities to grow as active, healthy and engaged citizens.

In ‘Future in Mind: promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing’, the Department of Health set out its aspiration that by 2020 professionals working with children and young people will be ‘trained in child development and mental health, and understand what can be done to provide help and support for those who need it’ (Department of Health & NHS England, 2015).

The Department for Education has produced guidance which ‘clarifies the responsibility of the school, outlines what they can do and how to support a child or young person whose behaviour, whether it is disruptive, withdrawn, anxious, depressed or otherwise may be related to an unmet mental health need.’ This guidance ‘provides advice and practical tools to help schools promote positive mental health in their pupils’ (Department for Education, 2016).

The Values-Based Child and Adolescent Mental Health System Commission (2016) advocate the need to:

  • Recognise the role of schools and fund them appropriately.
  • Ensure that both school and education policy and wider government policy and legislation are not detrimental to children and young people’s mental health.
  • Help schools to develop a framework for empowering and enabling children and young people to better understand their own mental health and to advocate for themselves. Schools should be able to teach children and young people about mental health in the same way they teach them about literacy or numeracy.
  • Ensure that schools are able to identify mental health issues and can easily signpost pupils to relevant support, either within the school or their local community, and have the accountability to do this.
  • The Education Policy Institute (2016) highlights ‘the critical role of teachers in early identification of mental health symptoms and helping children to build resilience’.
  • Ofsted having regard to mental health in any inspection of a school or college.
  • Evidence-based mental health training to be a part of initial and in-service training for teachers.
  • A trained lead for mental health and wellbeing in every school, alongside a lead school governor for wellbeing.
  • Pupil involvement in designing in-school support.

The government launched a green paper entitled ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’ (Department of Health & Department of Education, 2017). This paper outlined proposals for every school to have a designated lead in mental health by 2025. Additionally they proposed that mental health support teams would be linked with groups of schools and colleges, offering individual and group help to young people with mild to moderate mental health difficulties. These teams would also work with designated mental health links and provide a connection to specialist services. The government’s response to the consultation in July 2018 indicated that a trailblazer approach will be employed to trial the first mental health support teams and that training will be delivered to 20% of schools’ designated leads for mental health in 2019 (Department of Health and Social Care & Department for Education, 2018).

A key document in developing policy and whole school approaches is Mental Health and Behaviour in schools which outlines schools’ role in enabling pupils to be resilient and in supporting good mental health and wellbeing.

The impact of exclusions on emotional health and wellbeing

Although many of the children and young people in our schools enjoy good emotional health and wellbeing and as a result understand how to regulate their behaviour and access the learning environment, there are too many for whom this is not the case or who have unmet or undiagnosed need. A growing body of evidence indicates the issues faced by today’s children:

  • Many children and young people communicate their emotional difficulties through persistent, disruptive behaviours.
  • Out of 15 countries surveyed on aspects of subjective wellbeing, children in England ranked 15th for self-confidence and 14th for life satisfaction (The Children’s Society, 2015).
  • Almost 1 in 4 children and young people show some evidence of mental ill health (including anxiety and depression) (Young Minds, 2018).
  • 1 in 12 young people deliberately self-harm at some point in their lives (Young Minds, 2018).
  • 50% of adult mental health problems begin by the age of 14 (Kessler et al, 2005).
  • 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5-16 years have a diagnosable mental health disorder (Mental Health Foundation, 2015). This figure rises to 1 in 5 young adults (Young Minds, 2018).

The role of schools in supporting pupils at risk of exclusion

Schools have a significant role to play in providing a quality education for all students by making reasonable adjustments to meet specific needs. National policy and guidance recognises the importance of whole school approaches for all (universal provision), alongside targeted intervention and provision for ‘at risk’ groups and pupils showing early signs of difficulty. Where difficulties persist the importance of involving external specialist services in supporting schools and pupils is clear.

School leaders and governors

Governors and governing boards have a key responsibility in setting the vision and ethos of the school and holding the school to account in everyday practice. The Governance handbook for academies, multi-academy trusts and maintained schools (January 2017) sets out the duties governing boards have to hold their executive leaders to account. It is the duty of Governors to set a culture the school that values all pupils, promotes achievement for all and enables all pupils to access an education that prepares them for life and the workplace.

Flow diagram illustrating the role of schools in supporting pupils at risk of exclusion

These duties also include challenging schools and school leaders where appropriate by asking the right questions and ensuring that those pupils who are displaying external behaviour difficulties that are putting them at risk of exclusion have had adequate assessments. This will ensure that the need underlying the behaviour is understood and the appropriate interventions have been put in place as part of an assess, plan, do review cycle.

Governors can start by ensuring they are asking school leaders the right questions:

Question yes/no/evidence
Is behaviour a running agenda item on Governors minutes?
If the lead for behaviour is not the SENCo, how do the two roles interface and ensure that underlying need is identified?
If the school has a facility for internal isolation, how is the use recorded and data analysed to put interventions in place?
What does internal isolation or fixed term exclusion trigger in terms of SEND response?
Has an Early Help Assessment taken place?
Has the Graduated Response Tool been used?
Has the voice of the child or young person been captured?
Is the Governing Board aware of the advice outlined by Devon County Council’s Education Inclusion Service?
Has support from other agencies been sought, for example the The SEMH team or the Communication and Interaction Team?

The role of school staff in supporting pupils at risk of exclusion

Schools want to provide teaching and learning environments which are effective and enjoyable where children and young people flourish. These depend on good staff and student relationships across the whole setting. In addition effective inclusive provision requires all staff to have had sufficient training and professional development and to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. The emotional health and wellbeing of staff also needs to be a priority and planned for strategically at a senior leadership level rather than left to chance.

Form tutor/class teacher

The role of the form tutor in secondary education and class teacher in primary education is central to ensuring the social development and emotional health and wellbeing of pupils and in identifying those pupils who are displaying behaviour that is communicating unmet need. The form tutor/class teacher is often the member of staff who sees a child or young person most regularly and may be the only staff member to spend ‘non curriculum’ time with the pupil. The role includes caring for students and, crucially, monitoring their progress both academically and socially, along with encouraging involvement, commitment and high standards of work and behaviour. The form tutor/class teacher should be active in looking after the interests of the ‘whole child’ and should understand and be aware of how to identify areas of concern with regard to their development and the school policy for responding to these concerns.

Working with parents and carers

Partnership working with parents is again most effective when it is part of a coherent strategy, with work at the universal, targeted and specialist levels. At a universal level the aim of this work is about developing trusting relationships through engagement with parents and carers. Graduated Response Tool provides a helpful structure to share with parents when starting the assess, plan, do, review cycle. It is important to remember that parents of challenging pupils may also have had adverse experiences of schools and therefore care must be taken when structuring meetings to provide a comfortable environment, clear communication and an understanding of any potential triggers for anxiety in either the pupils or their parents/carers.

An Early Help approach is important in giving young people and parents support from a range of services and teams who will work together with the whole family to help improve the situation for everyone. Early Help is a range of approaches which can offer support to families from pre-birth to adolescents with all sorts of issues from parenting, employment and school attendance to emotional wellbeing or anti-social behaviour. When a child/young person/family needs something extra, Early Help is the initial response offered by all services in contact with children, young people and families. This builds an understanding to address extra needs and prevent situations from getting more difficult for children and young people. The aim of Early Help is to build on people’s capacity and resources to manage their own dilemmas, resolve their own difficulties and prevent further problems in the future. The Children’s and Families Partnership have put together an Early Help Toolkit which supports Early Help in Devon.

Devon Information, Advice and Support (DIAS) can also provide information and advice to parents to help them find out more about the support available to them. DIAS has a dedicated team offering legally-based and easily accessible information and advice about special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) for parents. They offer support to parents, carers, children and young people with SEND and can often support schools in working effectively with parents and cares. The service is impartial and confidential and the website contains useful links and documents to support effective joined up working.

Parents and carers are also the key to developing emotional health and wellbeing. They are experts on their own children, and can provide valuable information about the development of the skills of their child, identify unmet need and provide a valuable signpost for future interventions. It is essential that parents and carers are involved in any approaches used to support their child. Their views should be sought on initial planning and they should be kept informed throughout as the work develops.

  1. The school/setting makes parents and carers aware of the services within and outside schools, including the routes for referral, any appointments system and confidentiality issues.
  2. Any stigma around referral is openly addressed so that pupils/learners and parents or carers feel confident to access the services.
  3. The school/setting has effective mechanisms to engage with and support parents and carers to manage and support their child’s emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. Examples include education and training programmes (particularly effective in the primary school years) combined with interventions with the child or young person.

It is important to recognise that some parents and carers will themselves have needs which may affect their capacity for supporting their child and developing their resilience. Since the reasons for their lack of confidence or self-esteem may be grounded in very practical issues around employment, housing or finance, there are opportunities to assist them by supporting access to community-based services. This might involve access to Early Help to make sure that the family gets the right support at the right time or contacting DIAS for advice and guidance.

Partnership with parents includes gaining their informed consent when, for example, an external professional such as an educational psychologist or specialist teacher is to be involved or when a family needs access to additional external agencies. Pinpoint is a useful local search engine located on the Local Offer that can signpost to additional services and support.

Ensuring a child centred approach

Feelings of empowerment, mastery and control have been found to be protective in stressful and challenging situations, increasing resilience. This can often be difficult if a pupil is displaying challenging behaviour or has communication needs, however schools which prioritise authentic pupil participation activities give voice to these protective factors.

The benefits of listening to children and young people also include increased participation in their learning, confidence and self-respect and preparation for citizenship as adults. From an emotional perspective the opportunity for meaningful self-expression can help early identification of potential difficulties, allowing effective interventions to be put in place before difficulties escalate.

Children and young people should feel respected and valued within the school community and regarded as an equal part of it. They need to have ongoing opportunities for a purposeful dialogue, which can influence all aspects of their school day. This should be embedded within a whole school approach, involving all staff and pupils and not simply be a one off activity.

‘Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.’ The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Schools have specific responsibilities for ensuring the voices of vulnerable pupils are heard. As an example the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (2015) states that whenever possible, children and young people with special educational needs should ‘participate in all the decision-making processes that occur in education’.

The Strategies to Encourage Pupil Voice and Self Audit tool in the Toolkit Resource Bank will help schools to build on their capacity to have meaningful participation and communication with children and young people. It is important to recognise that as well as providing opportunities for authentic participation, children and young people will often need support to learn the skills they need to formulate and communicate their views effectively, particularly if they have social or emotional health difficulties or have unmet needs which are being expressed through challenging behaviour.

The Case study Enabling Pupil Voice and Embedding an Inclusive Culture in the Toolkit Resource bank gives an example of how one Devon school has developed their practice.

Developing a whole school approach to promoting emotional health and wellbeing

The provision of training and professional development activities focused on emotional health and wellbeing is key to improving staff confidence, understanding and skills. This professional development should aim to:

  • Help each member of staff understand how responsibility for emotional health and wellbeing is a part of their role and that support is available to them in school to ensure they carry out these responsibilities effectively
  • Enable members of staff to identify the early signs of mental health problems
  • Ensure staff members know how they can promote good emotional health and wellbeing for all students and how they can support those who are having difficulties

‘A teaching profession that feels sufficiently trained to speak about mental health and approaches issues confidently would lead to an open and inclusive culture that would benefit students and teachers, and reduce stigma about discussing mental health in the classroom.’ Young Minds (2017)

There are a range of resources and top tips for staff on the Educational Psychology section of the Devon Education Services website relating to anxiety in children and young people, managing challenging behaviour, supporting those who have experienced domestic abuse and promoting successful transition.

The government will be commencing training for designated leads for mental health in 2019, supporting 20% of schools initially. Locally, training is available to schools in Youth Mental Health First Aid and Self Harm and Young People. Devon Education Services Educational Psychology also has a mental health offer which includes training, consultation, coaching and supervision for staff.

Appropriate supervision of school staff working with children and young people with emotional health and wellbeing difficulties is essential for effective and safe practice. Ideally supervision should be delivered by a professional with training in supervisory skills, who also has expertise and experience of children and young people with difficulties in this area. Supervision is particularly important for staff with a high level of pastoral responsibility as part of their everyday work, for example learning mentors and teachers running nurture groups.

Staff wellbeing

If staff members are to support pupils with SEMH and promote the emotional health and wellbeing of pupils they have to feel supported to develop and maintain their own emotional health and wellbeing. School leaders need to take this seriously, and should consider the following questions:

Question yes/no/evidence?
Are staff who work with the most vulnerable or challenging pupils provided with supervisory support and access to counselling services?
Is there an open and respectful climate in which staff can admit and explore any concerns and difficulties, problem solve collaboratively and seek help and support?
Do staff have access to advice from experts which provides support, advice and guidance?
Do external experts offer sessions in emotional health and wellbeing topics such as health and fitness, stress management relaxation?
Is there an effective behaviour management system in place to support staff and reduce stress?
Do staff have the opportunity to celebrate successes and achievements with each other?
Are staff consulted on their training and support?

Circles of Adults and Solution Circles can be an effective way of supporting staff wellbeing and problem solving capacity when working with children with complex needs.

External support from agencies and organisations

Support from external professionals should be sought in the following circumstances:

Flowchart describing when support from external professionals should be sought when difficulties are being experienced by a pupil

In the event of safeguarding concerns schools should make a Mash enquiry. Additional information about safeguarding concerns is also available in the Local Offer.

Schools will need to familiarise themselves with the range of external support available for pupils. This can be found in the Local Offer. Information about specific services that support schools can be found on the Support for Schools and Settings website or on the Integrated Children’s Services Single Point of Referral. Schools may use independent practitioners but will need to ensure that they have suitable qualifications and experience for the work being undertaken and are registered with appropriate regulatory bodies such as the Health and Care Professionals Council or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.


The following websites are referred to in the document:

Devon Graduated Response to SEND support profile:

Early Help:

House of Commons Education Committee – Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions:

Adverse Childhood Experiences in England:

Study links school exclusion to prison:

Devon County Council Support for Schools and Settings SEND Communication and Interaction:

SLCN Primary Checklist:

SLCN Secondary Checklist:

Devon Enhanced Language Programme (DELP):

The Communication Trust:

Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman sets out vision for new Education Inspection Framework:

DfE publication – Mental health and behaviour in schools:–2

Every School a Good School The Governors’ Role – Education NI:

Devon County Council Education Inclusion Service:

Devon Education Services Educational Psychology:

Youth Mental Health First Aid:

Staff Group Supervision in Schools:

Circles of Adults and Solution Circles:

Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH):

Concerned About a Child:

Devon Integrated Children’s Services:

The following websites contain a wealth of information about emotional health and wellbeing and how educational settings can support this agenda.

Whole school approaches to emotional health and wellbeing: materials)

Recognition of school emotional health and wellbeing work:

School counselling:
DfE Counselling in schools: a blueprint for the future: Departmental advice for school leaders and counsellors (updated 2016)

Trauma Recovery:


Suicide in young people:


Self harm:

Attachment: – Drawing on theories and research from the fields of attachment, coaching and resilience, it is a comprehensive practical guide as to what to do and how to be, to ensure that the individual needs of each child are met. Attachment based mentoring is a relational, child centred and holistic approach to supporting our most vulnerable children.

Speech, Language and Communication Needs:

The Communication Trust – Don’t Get Me Wrong:
The Communication Trust – Sentence trouble:

Youth justice websites:

The Communication Trust Youth Justice programme –
National Autistic Society Criminal Justice –

National resources

Young Minds
A leading UK Charity which provides information, advice & support for young people affected by mental health issues. It also provides support for parents and professionals. The website has many free resources to support schools in areas such as preparing CYP for transition, building resilience, supporting school staff. There is also a free helpline for parents who have concerns about their child’s mental health.

Kooth is an online counselling and emotional wellbeing platform for children and young people, accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop. It is free and confidential.

This leading UK Charity which provides information, support and advice for young people, parents and professionals around safeguarding children and preventing abuse. The website has many free research publications and resources for school staff including PANTS (the underwear rule) lesson plans, posters and teaching guidance.

ChildLine is a free telephone and online counselling and advice service for children and young people up to the age of 19. The website includes information for children and young people on friendships, sex and relationships, bullying and feelings.

Rise Above
An online network for secondary aged pupils to discuss topics of interest including mental health, sex and relationships.

A free educational resource on children and young people’s mental health for all adults including parents, volunteers and professionals.

Early Help for Mental Health
A website outlining training and support on mental health for school staff in Devon. The website aims to provide better access to advice and services in Devon for school staff.

Parental Engagement
DfE Review of best practice in parental engagement (2011)


Colley D. & Cooper P. (2017). Attachment and emotional development in the classroom: Theory and practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishing.

Department for Education. (2015). Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years: Statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities.

Department for Education. (2015). The impact of pupil behaviour and wellbeing on educational outcomes.

Department for Education. (2016). Mental health and behaviour in schools: Departmental advice for school staff.

Department for Education (November 2018) Mental Health and Behaviour in schools.

Department for Education. (2018). Permanent and fixed-period exclusions in England.

Department for Education. (2018). Relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education: Guidance for governing bodies, proprietors, head teachers, principals, senior leadership teams, teachers. Draft for consultation: July 2018

Department of Health.(2014). Wellbeing: Why it matters to health policy.

Department of Health & Department for Education. (2017). Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision: A green paper.

Department of Health & NHS England. (2015). Future in mind: Promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Department of Health and Social Care & Department of Health. (2018). Government response to the consultation on transforming children and young people’s mental health provision: a green paper and next steps.

HMSO. (2010). The equality act.

Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 593-602.

Ofsted. (2015). The common inspection framework: education, skills and early years.

Psychological Medicine, Cambridge University Press, 1969-present:

Royal College of Psychiatrists. (2016). Values-based child and adolescent mental health system commission: What really matters in children and young people’s mental health.—what-really-matters.pdf?sfvrsn=cdb08a51_2

The Children’s Society. (2015). The good childhood report 2015.

The Children’s Society. (2017). The good childhood report 2017.

The Education Policy Institute. (2016). Independent commission on children and young people’s mental health, time to deliver.

The Institute for Human Services for The Ohio Child Welfare Training Program. (2007). Developmental milestones chart.

The Mental Health Foundation. (2015). Fundamental facts about mental health.

Young Minds. (2017). Wise up: Prioritising wellbeing in schools.

Young Minds (2018). Mental health statistics. Accessed 20/08/18

United Nations. (1989). Convention on the rights of the child

Part two - Introduction

Persistent disruptive or withdrawn behaviours do not necessarily mean that a child or young person has Special Educational Needs (Code of practice 2015 6.21) however it is important that schools identify special educational needs in terms of their primary needs and be mindful that any unmet need will most likely result in an additional social emotional or even mental health need. Schools need systems in place to ensure that underlying needs are identified early and interventions put in place to meet those needs. The effectiveness of interventions needs to be evaluated and, where appropriate, changes made to either increase the amount or intensity of support provided or involve external professionals in thinking about what the child requires. This ‘assess-plan-do-review’ cycle is known as the graduated approach for children and pupils with special educational needs and is equally applicable to concerns about emotional health and wellbeing.

Assess - identifying underlying need

It is important to be mindful that whilst there is a need to be proactive in identifying need, school staff without the necessary qualifications must not diagnose mental illness (this is a medical diagnosis reached by medical professionals). Using the recommended Assessment tools, such as those in the grid below, will highlight individual need and support schools to be able to identify suitable support and provision.

The presentation of poor behaviour does not necessarily mean that a child/young person (CYP) has a behavioural problem, mental health difficulty or SEN. For example:

  • impolite to an adult may merely be an indication of a relationship fall out as opposed to SEN.
  • anxiety may be linked with particular events in and outside of school that can pass with time. For example family separation or school exams.

“It is recommended that when identifying need schools should be mindful of the extent to which environmental and familial factors are thought to be influencing the presentation of behaviours seen.” The Devon Graduated Response Tool 2017

Assessment should be prioritised in order to establish early identification of signs and symptoms of difficulties. The value of an initial teacher observation should not be underestimated as class teachers or tutors are often best placed to spot early indicators of need. The Graduated Response assessment checklist for Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs can be a good starting point to begin this process and can give a holistic picture of the child’s needs.

Assessment should also include pupil and parent perspectives to ensure that parent and pupil voice is captured. Informal conversations with parents can help explore early identification of need and the Graduated Response Tool gives a useful starting point. Schools report that using the graduated response tool can help develop communication between parents, carers and teaching staff. Devon Information Advice & Support supports parents, carers, children and young people with SEND and can give useful guidance to help parents understand more about SEND support, develop good relationships with professionals, prepare well for meetings, express their and their child’s views and understand the paperwork.

Sometimes needs can require specialist assessment which will require external agencies to be contacted. Consider seeking advice and support from external agencies if difficulties are severe.

Examples of assessment methods to clarify needs of CYP at risk of exclusion:

Assessment Who is it for? What is measured? How is it measured? Who can administer it? Strengths
Boxall Profile Primary and secondary aged pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties Social, emotional, behavioural development Two part checklist each consisting of 34 descriptive items A member of the school staff who knows the child well Easy to use

Indicator for nurture programmes

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) 3-16 year olds Psychological attributes Questionnaires completed by parents or teacher

Self completion form for adolescents

Professional in CAMHS and school staff Suggests pathways for more specialist assessment

Freely accessible on-line

B/G – Steem Pupils aged 6-13 years old Self-esteem Questionnaire completed by the child with yes/no answers Teachers, SENCOs, trained teaching assistants and learning mentors Easy to administer and score

Assists in the planning and evaluation of interventions

Emotional Literacy Assessment and Intervention Primary and Secondary versions: 7-11 years and 1-16 years Emotional literacy: self-awareness

Emotional regulation



Includes optional teacher, pupil and parent questionnaires SENCOs, teachers, school-based professionals Reassessment allows monitoring of progress and impact evaluation

Provides follow up activities for intervention programmes

Butler Self-Image Profile Children aged 7-11 years

Adolescents aged 12-16 years

Self-image and Self-esteem Short self-report scale Specialist teachers

CAMHS professionals


Quick and easy to administer

Immediate visual profile

Pupil attitude to Self and School (PASS) Pupils aged 7-15 years Assessment of pupil views and attitudes about school, teachers, attendance, curriculum, themselves as learners A software assessment tool Teachers and school-based professionals School focus

20 minutes to administer

Monitors, tracks and evaluates learner progress

The Communication Trust All key stages A one-stop-shop of information, tools and resources to support identification, quality referrals and timely support for speech, language and communication needs A resource bank of materials Teachers and school-based professionals Range of materials and threshold indicators

Signposts to professional referral route

Plan and do - targeting support to meet need

Once initial assessment has taken place it is important to establish which of the identified needs are key to moving the child forward.

These needs should form the basis for the next set of Outcomes identified on the individual’s learning plan, i.e. My Plan or a school-based plan. It might be appropriate to use A Relational Support Plan (Resource Bank) for a more specific response based on the understanding that pupils at risk of exclusion or with SEMH needs will benefit from a relational approach to developing a support plan. It is recommended that schools identify just 1-3 key needs/outcomes to carry forward to the planning stage and work with a small steps approach. These outcomes should of course be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed). When planning to meet these needs schools should be mindful of the extent to which environmental and familial factors are thought to be influencing the presentation of behaviours seen. Schools will need to take into consideration both competency levels of staff and any additional training needs. The SEND Improvement board has recently published the Core Competency Framework which may be helpful in identifying key skills and attributes in staff.

This document aims to highlight core competencies (key areas of knowledge and understanding, skills and abilities) to ensure we collectively meet the needs of children and young people with SEND and their families in Devon. Schools and managers could use this document:

  • For all staff to individually self-assess and develop their knowledge and skills, and to establish a baseline during induction;
  • To support newly qualified members of staff;
  • To supplement job descriptions or person specifications;
  • For leaders and managers to have an overview of the core competencies all staff should be working towards;
  • For discussion and reflection during your organisation’s meetings, internal training or in supervision and appraisal;
  • For identifying areas for future training or continuous professional development.

The framework lists competencies, then resources which could be used to develop these competencies. The list of resources is not exhaustive, but aims to offer an overview of key legislation, national guidance and local policy, practice and information from across education, health and social care.

Following the identification of key outcomes it is important to identify the appropriate provision for the child or young person’s needs. The table on the following page outlines some of the evidence-based interventions that may be appropriate for children and young people at risk of exclusion and / or with SEMH needs. More information can be found on interventions and the research behind them by clicking on the links in the documents.

Examples of interventions to support CYP at risk of exclusion:

Universal (some targeted aspects) interventions

Intervention Age group Area of need Level of need, universal (for all), targeted (for some students) or specialist (for a few students) Who can deliver it? What is the impact? Is there an evidence base?
Coaching School staff working with CYP of any age Staff development and support Universal Educational psychologist Increased teacher wellbeing and resilience, reduced stress and improved practice.
Emotional logic Any age
Main materials:

  • Key Stage 2 upwardsTalking Tree materials
  • Foundation and Key Stage 1
Emotional Literacy

All children; particularly useful for SEMH needs




Trained School Staff / Advisory Teachers Staff being empowered to be able to help children learn about their emotions in a structured way.

Increase in pupil wellbeing, empathy, problem solving and ability to make positive choices.

Decrease in anxiety, conflict, confrontation, depression.

Mindfulness Early Years to Post 16 All children but particularly useful for those with SEMH needs Universal



Educational Psychologist

Trained school staff

Positive impact on psychological, social and physical wellbeing of CYP.

Targeted interventions can reduce depression and anxiety.

Playfulness Acceptance Curiosity and Engagement (PACE) Foundation Stage to Secondary Attachment difficulties

Relational needs

Universal All staff in schools Can facilitate secure attachments in children and enable them to build positive relationships.
Restorative Approaches Early Years to Post 16 SEMH

Social conflict



All staff in schools Can increase attendance and decrease exclusions and bullying. Can increase staff confidence in managing behaviour and conflict.
Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) Foundation Stage to Secondary Develops emotional literacy skills for all children Universal




Can improve primary age children’s confidence, social skills, conflict resolution skills and communication of emotions. Less evidence available for secondary.
THRIVE Primary and secondary SEMH
Attachment difficulties
Children in Care
No peer reviewed evidence of impact. Case studies suggest improvements in social skills, mental health, confidence and social relationships.

Targeted interventions

Intervention Age group Area of need Level of need, universal (for all), targeted (for some students) or specialist (for a few students) Who can deliver it? What is the impact? Is there an evidence base?
Attachment Based Mentoring Foundation stage to secondary Children in Care and Adopted children

Attachment difficulties

Targeted TAs


Positive impact on CYP’s ability to form open and trusting relationships. Improved feelings of self-worth, confidence and happiness in CYP and better emotional regulation.
Circles of Adults Key Stage Two to Four Any area of need including SEMH Targeted Educational Psychologist Process to empower staff to problem solve and come up with/implement solutions. Anecdotal evidence that it improves staff confidence and capacity to support children with SEMH needs.
Circle of Friends Primary and Secondary Social skills and friendships

Social isolation

Targeted TAs


Positive impact on peer relationships and social skills. Improved social acceptance.
Emotion Coaching Foundation Stage to Secondary Emotional literacy

Social problem solving

Targeted TAs


Learning Mentors

Can improve resilience, whilst reducing depression and conduct difficulties.

Improved empathy and wellbeing.

Emotionally Literate Support Assistant (ELSA) Early Years to Secondary Difficulties with peer relationships

Self-esteem and confidence

Targeted Teaching assistants

Learning mentors

Increase empathy, self-awareness and regulation. Improved social behaviour and relationships. Decrease in behaviours causing concerns. Improved staff confidence and knowledge.
Homunculi Approach to Social and Emotional Wellbeing 7 years plus

Can be used with children with a range of SEND

High functioning Autism




Educational Psychologist

School staff


Positive impact for a range of specific issues including reduction in exam stress, anxiety and friendship problems and increases in self-esteem and capacity to cope with change.
MAPs Staff working with Early Years to Post 16 Any area of need including SEMH Targeted


Educational Psychologist Person-centred planning process which identifies the CYP’s dreams, wishes and goals and produces a plan to address these.
Motivational Interviewing 10 years plus SEMH – particularly to support behavioural change Targeted


Educational Psychologist

Trained teacher, TA, learning mentor

Can successfully increase CYP’s motivation to change problematic behaviours or attitudes
Nurture Groups Early Years to Secondary SEMH Targeted


Trained member of school staff Improved social and emotional functioning. Improvements in learning, pro-social behaviours and relationships at school and at home.
Solution Circles Staff working with Early Years to Post 16 Any area of need including SEMH

Staff development and support



Educational Psychologist Increased staff resilience with supporting CYP with complex needs.

Supports staff to reflect on and develop their practice. This is linked with positive outcomes for CYP.

Staff Supervision Staff working with Early Years to Post 16 Staff development and support Targeted


Educational Psychologist Supports staff to problem solve and implement solutions. Enhances staff wellbeing.

Specialist interventions

Intervention Age group Area of need Level of need, universal (for all), targeted (for some students) or specialist (for a few students) Who can deliver it? What is the impact? Is there an evidence base?
From Timid to Tiger 3 to 11 Anxiety Specialist Mental health professionals Trained school staff Reductions in anxiety for children with separation anxiety, generalised anxiety, panic, agoraphobia and specific panics.
Lego Therapy Primary and Secondary

Child needs certain level of language


Social communication difficulties

Specialist Communication and Interaction team

Educational Psychologist

Improved ability to initiate and sustain social contact with peers
Overcoming Programme Parents of CYP from Early Years to Post 16 Anxiety with or without ASC or ADHD Specialist Educational Psychologist As effective as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for CYP with anxiety disorders. Reduces anxiety based on a range of measures. Can be delivered with individual parents on in a group.

Review - evaluating impact and reviewing progress

It is essential that the progress of individuals identified as at risk of exclusion is regularly reviewed. Education practitioners should meet with parents/carers to hold a formal review at least three times a year in order to discuss progress against smart targets and to agree any interventions required. However parents of children and young people at risk of exclusion should meet more regularly to ensure consistency of message and embedding of agreed strategies.

Effective meetings should:

  • Be aligned or combined with the usual cycle of discussions with parents/carers of all pupils (e.g. parents evenings)
  • Be led by a member of staff that knows the CYP well
  • Allow sufficient time to gather parents/carers’ views and draw up a new plan
  • Include the views of the pupil
  • Be recorded and a copy made available to parents
  • Take into account any communication needs of parents or pupils carers.

Review preparation checklist:

Prior to the the review

  1. Check parents/carers and key staff can still attend.
  2. Explain the purpose of the meeting to the pupil and gather pupil views and/or invite them to the meeting.
  3. Repeat any assessments or carry out new ones (where reviews are frequent this will be in accordance with timings agreed)
  4. Ensure an appropriate space in available

The day before the review

  1. Remind the pupil that the review is taking place.
  2. Gather relevant paperwork.
  3. Prepare the appropriate form (My Support Plan, Relational Plan, IEP, etc) to record the review.

The review meeting provides an opportunity to reflect on how well the provision is meeting the CYP’s needs and whether any external or environmental factors have changed and therefore may need consideration. It should also provide an opportunity to consider the forthcoming period of time and any known or likely trigger or “pinch” points so that these can be best minimised or eliminated.

The review meeting will feed back into the Assess part of the cycle, providing valuable qualitative/observational data and possible quantitative data from the assessments undertaken to measure progress against the SMART outcomes.

At this point further advice and support may be sought if the CYP’s needs are still not being well met or if there has been a deterioration in presentation, escalation in behaviours that challenge or identification of new significant needs.

Where the CYP is making progress and the provision identified is successfully meeting needs, schools should continue with the APDR cycle until all are in agreement that a carefully managed and gradual withdrawal of support is appropriate.

At any stage where there are safeguarding concerns these should follow the usual safeguarding guidance and processes.

Assess, Plan, Do, Review - Desired Outcome diagram