– October 14 2019
Expelling children from school does more harm than good
Children ‘act out’ for lots of reasons – most of which aren’t helped by removing a child from school. Problems at home, family breakdown, physical and mental health issues, even abuse, can lead to anti-social behaviour.
Unsociable behaviour doesn’t come out of nowhere – it’s often a symptom of a much larger problem. Stopping children from getting a good education does nothing to address any of these problems, and it can cause further harm to children who are already vulnerable and struggling to cope. Evidence shows that children who are excluded from school have a lower chance of leading a stable, happy and productive adult life and are more likely to become involved in crime or drug use.
Instead of punishing young people, we should be doing our best to help them.
The SOS Children’s Villages ‘Space for Change’ programme in Spain is supporting hundreds of children who have been expelled from school. Without judgement, trained SOS staff take the time to listen to children, help them understand why their behaviour has led to their expulsion, and give them the opportunity to catch up on their school work.
By getting to the root causes of why a child has been behaving inappropriately, the SOS team is helping children reach their potential.
Alberto was expelled from his school when he was fourteen years old. From the Roma community in Majorca, Alberto planned to go into the scrap metal trade like his father and didn’t think that having an education was important for him. He struggled to build relationships with his teachers and classmates and received little encouragement to study from most of his family. His mother, Susana, didn’t know how to help her son, and felt desperately alone.
Since joining the SOS ‘Space for Change’ programme, held every morning at his local SOS day centre, Alberto’s attitude towards education has been transformed.
“I feel I have studied more here at the centre than in the whole year at school,” Alberto admitted to us. “It has made me stop and think about the importance of studying, and that is why I have passed my exams.
“Since I have come here, I feel something has changed in me. I want to do things better. Before, I didn’t care how to face my problems, but now I want to improve. It has helped me a lot to reflect on myself, and on my behaviour. Even if it is sometimes hard to say sorry, it makes me see the things I do wrong any why.”
‘Space for Change’ is just one of many life-changing programmes SOS runs for children through their day care centres in Spain. Partly funded by a generous grant from the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity, the centres offer their community’s most vulnerable children unconditional acceptance in a nurturing environment.
The children SOS supports are struggling with problems such as low self-esteem, lack of motivation, and difficulty building personal relationships. Many are on the verge of being excluded from school, if they haven’t been already. Instead of judging children, SOS offers them a safe space where they can begin to build a positive self-image, receive help with school work, and learn how to interact better with other children and adults.
We don’t believe in blaming parents for their children’s behaviour, we believe in giving them the support they need to help their children do better. At the SOS day centres SOS is helping parents gain the knowledge and skills they need to take an active role in their children’s educations and improve their family relationships.
The approach is saving children’s futures, in a way that excluding children from school never can.
Thomas Cook Children’s Charity has been supporting SOS Children’s Villages UK since 2015. Through the fundraising efforts of their employees and generosity of their customers, they contributed more than £140,000 to the running of our SOS day centre in Mallorca last year. Their support enabled us to ensure vulnerable children in Spain have a safe space for personal development and the skills they need to thrive in school.
Spain has some of the highest levels of social inequality in the EU, with 2.7 million children at risk of poverty. This can affect their ability to do well at school, harm their physical and mental health, and places them at greater risk of being left without parental care.