Schools urged to be vigilant on domestic violence

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The NSPCC is encouraging schools to be vigilant in looking out for pupils experiencing domestic violence, as new figures show that children who witness family violence while growing up are twice as likely to be excluded from school.

The NSPCC research shows that children who have witnessed violence between their parents or other family members are:

  • Three times as likely to take drugs, steal, spray graffiti or bully others than their peers;
  • Twice as likely to get drunk, smoke or get into fights than their peers
  • Five times more likely to run away from home as their peers; and
  • Four times as likely to carry a weapon, such as a knife, or hurt someone badly than their peers.

Simply witnessing violence can cause trauma and distress to children that is so severe it can have a massive impact on their well-being and ultimately their behaviour.

The research shows over half (56%) of children from violent homes show three or more of these kinds of disruptive behaviours whilst at secondary school, but the evidence of family violence is also visible at primary school. Five to 10 year-olds from violent or abusive homes are two to four times more likely to hit, slap or push other children; pick on others or; break, damage or destroy someone else’s belongings.

The charity’s Dan Russell said: “Across the UK over a quarter of a million children from violent homes end up being excluded from school for disruptive or anti-social behaviour during their childhood.

“Our research reinforces the Department of Education’s recent advice to schools to consider whether behaviour gives cause to suspect a child is suffering from significant harm and demonstrates the immense damage caused by family violence on children’s behaviour and education.

“These children are acting out their emotional disturbance by causing harm to themselves or others. We know from pioneering research that a child’s brain is damaged by witnessing or experiencing physical or emotional abuse at a young age. This can result in children being more aggressive.

“Across the UK we are introducing programmes to help children who have suffered family violence and to work with families to support them and reform their behaviour.

“But, if we are to break the cycle of violence, we need to identify families who need support earlier. As universal services, schools can play a crucial role in the early identification of children and families affected by domestic violence.

“Of course, we back a head’s right to exclude pupils where needed, but if there are underlying issues these need to be identified so that agencies can work together to keep children safe and help them recover from the effects of physical abuse."

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