School Attendance Data Could Play Crucial Role in Targeting Mental Health Support for Pupils

Jim Liebelt

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted by eMarketer.

Poor school attendance impacts a child's future, not just through their educational achievement but also socially and developmentally.

Pupils with mental and neurodevelopmental disorders or who self-harm are more likely to miss school through absenteeism and exclusion than their classmates.

Now researchers say these absences are potential indicators of current or future poor mental health and could be used to target vital assessment and potentially life-changing early intervention.

A study led by Swansea University's Professor Ann John, highlighted the importance of integrated school-based and healthcare strategies to support young people's engagement with education.

Professor John said: "Children with poor mental health, who are neurodiverse or who self-harm often struggle at school.

"Health and educational professionals, services, and policymakers should be aware that children with poor attendance may be experiencing emotional ill health, whether this is diagnosed in school or early adulthood.

"Absences and exclusions may provide a useful tool to identify those who require additional support. Early intervention will not only reduce immediate distress and difficulties for the young person but also may also interrupt poor life trajectories and improve outcomes in later life."

The new study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, examined the association between attendance (absences and exclusions) and neurodiversity, mental health, and self-harm in 437,412 Welsh school pupils aged from seven to 16 between 2009 and 2013, found that children and young people with a neurodevelopmental disorder, mental disorder, or who self-harm diagnosed and recorded before the age of 24 are much more likely to miss school than their peers.

If absence results in social isolation and poorer academic performance, this could go on to exacerbate mental health and attendance issues.

Professor John said, "Attendance and exclusion data could provide useful information about where to focus limited resources. School-based mental health prevention strategies may also help build resilience, enabling pupils to develop strategies for managing and improving their mental health and wellbeing as well as to understand when and how to seek additional help."

Source: MedicalXpress