logo-education
0370 270 6000

already registered?

Please sign in with your existing account details.

need to register?

Register to access exclusive content, sign up to receive our updates and personalise your experience on brownejacobson.com.

Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

mental health and student behaviour issues

18 June 2020

Three quarters of mental health problems in adult life start before the age of 18. The number of referrals of young people to child and adolescent services has increased by 26% in the five years prior to 2018. At what point does bad behaviour become a disability or special educational need for which you are required to make reasonable adjustments?

Top tips

The top tips below outline what you should consider when managing and seeking to address behavioural problems with a child with mental health issues. As always, if you would like to speak to one of expert lawyers about a specific situation please contact us.

  1. Consider whether the child is exhibiting behaviour that is a choice or whether it is beyond their control:
    • Has the behaviour changed?
    • Has the child become moody, irritable or anxious?
    • Are they engaged with friends or have they become withdrawn or anxious? Have they developed low self-esteem?
    • Are they aggressive or oppositional?
    • Has their attainment changed?
    • Have there been any traumatic events at home?
    • Is the child being bullied?

  2. Consider the child holistically and gauge whether there is a possible issue. Consider an assessment of all the information gathered to see if the students have needs which can be met. There are assessments available which list risk factors.

  3. Consider whether the behaviour is a mental health issue that is part of a safeguarding issue (you may need to speak to your Designated Safeguarding Lead).

  4. Ensure that the ability to punish is exercised lawfully and in line with your published behaviour policy. The decision:
    1. must be made by a paid member of the school staff;
    2. must be made on school premises (or while under the charge of a member of staff);
    3. must not breach other legislation such as the Equality Act 2010; and
    4. must be reasonable in all the circumstances.

    Thus, if an assessment would suggest that there are underlying mental health issues, the punishment needs to be proportionate under statutory requirements.

    This would include special educational needs, disabilities, age and any religious requirements.

  5. If appropriate, review any notes received from the child’s previous school. What do they suggest? Is there a history of bad behaviour? Is there any pattern? Check any comments made by parents in the school application/information forms. Have they indicated any special educational needs for which adjustments could be made?


  6. Involve parents/carers if possible. What is the behaviour like at home? Is it a general problem or a problem only seen at school? CAMHS will often only deal with children who exhibit similar behaviour at home and school and therefore you will need to consider any necessary referrals. Generally it is expected that parental consent has been given to a referral by school, although some SENCOs of secondary schools can make a referral if they have undertaken the necessary training.


  7. If a child is identified as having mental health issues, engage the student and or parents/carers and try to arrange communication with the GP. The school can then ensure that the reasonable adjustments put in place are appropriate in terms of extent, time and intensity. Parents are not always the most objective and the child may not be in a place to be able to know what is best for them. Stress to the child’s GP [and/or] parents/carers that in order to fulfil the school’s duty of care to the child, proper medical input is required, and that without this there is no certainty that the adjustments being made are reasonable.

  8. Be aware of students with mental health issues at exam time. Make reasonable adjustments for them in exactly the same way as you would make adjustments for a physical disability. Distinguish between what is normal short term exam stress and longer term underlying anxieties or other contributing factors.

training and events

8Jun

PraxisAuril 2021 Conference Online

Come and meet our Head of Higher Education, Bettina Rigg and colleagues who will be online throughout this four day conference to discuss how our full service team can support your institution. Please note that this event was postponed from June 2020.

View event

1Jul

ISBL regional Conference Marriott Hotel, Southampton Road, Cosham, Portsmouth, PO6 4SH

Join our Partner Julia Green at this regional conference as she provides an overview of key legal developments that you should be aware of ahead of the 2021/22 academic year. Please note that this event was postponed from July 2020.

View event

focus on...

Legal updates

Preparing to award teacher assessed grades

Schools will now be tasked with reading a vast amount of information to get themselves ready to provide teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) for students following the recent publication of the suite of Joint Council Qualifications (JCQ).

View

Legal updates

Future-proofing your Centre Policy

Exams centres, including schools, have between 12 and 30 April 2021 to develop and submit their Centre Policy. This policy will set out the centre’s approach to assessment and quality assurance during this summer’s teacher assessed grading (TAGs) process.

View

Legal updates

Everyone’s Invited – Ofsted to review safeguarding policies

Ofsted has announced that it will begin an immediate review of school safeguarding policies. It is now time that you take steps to ensure your policies and procedures are up to date.

View

Legal updates

‘Everyone’s Invited’ - managing reports of child-on-child assault and harassment

The ‘Everyone’s Invited’ movement has over 9,000 testimonies on its website and, whilst it has recently taken the step to anonymise everything on the platform, a number of schools have been named.

View

The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

mailing list sign up



Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up