In late 2019, ADR Wales mental health researchers investigated school absence and exclusion amongst pupils with mental health disorders. Welsh Government then requested the analysis be extended to look at diagnoses and symptoms of mental health and self-harm in pupils educated other than at school (EOTAS). EOTAS is education provision to meet the needs of pupils who, for whatever reason (i.e., illnesses, exclusions, mental health, behavioural difficulties) cannot attend a mainstream or special school.
Last year, the research team set out to investigate mental health (diagnoses and symptoms) and self-harm before and after being in EOTAS provision from 2010/11 to 2018/19. They compared the findings in EOTAS children to a group of children with similar age, sex and socioeconomic circumstances in Wales but educated in mainstream school. The team found that:
- 65% of EOTAS pupils were male.
- 40% of EOTAS pupils were from the most deprived 20% of areas in Wales.
- Females first enter EOTAS at a later age than males.
- Pupils experience a range of mental health issues before and after being in EOTAS provision, but the type and rate of mental health problems differs between males and females.
This research is identified as high priority by the Welsh Government, and was initiated as a commitment in the Welsh Government’s loneliness strategy as well as in the Minister for Education’s response to the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s 2019-2020 EOTAS Inquiry.
The researchers presented the provisional findings to key education and health policy colleagues in Welsh Government as well as the EOTAS Advisory Group and headteachers from Pupil Referral Units.
The work provides valuable evidence on the rates of neurodiversity, mental health conditions and self-harm in pupils before and after they enter EOTAS provision; how these differ by age and sex; and how they compare with those of pupils in mainstream education. The Welsh Government has issued guidance to schools and local authorities on supporting emotional and mental wellbeing. This ADR Wales research has the potential to provide further insights specifically on the experience of EOTAS pupils, to complement the Welsh Government guidance.