Dumfries and Galloway toddlers affected by lockdown measures displaying “dysregulated behaviours” at primary school

Toddlers negatively affected by the lockdown measures put in place during Covid are displaying “dysregulated behaviours” when they reach primary school, an education chief confirmed this week.

A significant increase in school exclusion rates at schools in the Nithsdale area has sparked concern, with councillors asking how this is possible three years on from the worst of the pandemic.

Pupils being temporarily excluded due to bad behaviour has climbed to a rate of 13.38 half days per 1000 pupils last year – far exceeding the target of 7.95 half days.

While many expected these excluded pupil stats to mainly involve teenagers in secondary school, that has not been the case.

At Nithsdale area committee on Wednesday, Lochar Councillor Ivor Hyslop said: “We’re now seeing increases.

“Surely we move away from Covid that shouldn’t be coming through – or is it younger children are actually being excluded more?”

Jim Brown, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s chief education officer, said: “What we’re seeing is the impact of Covid on young people as they are now in school.

“So, in other words, yes the rates of exclusion are increasing for younger children.

“Our overall position is that exclusion rates are reducing, and that has been the target. We can see that manifest in secondary school exclusions.”

An education update report, covering April-September 2023, was tabled at the committee. which showed that school exclusion rates for unruly behaviour was much higher than expected.

The mental health strain placed on youngsters during the Covid lockdowns has been linked to a deterioration in their behaviour in the classroom.

Last year, the Scottish Government acknowledged that this has become a national issue, with assaults on pupils and staff also on the rise.

The council report also underlined that Dumfries and Galloway – “like all regions across Scotland” – has been seeing an increase in pupils displaying dysregulated behaviours.

The period of exclusion often allows for a plan to be created or amended to support the pupil.

Mr Brown’s education report states that these exclusion figures are outwith acceptable limits and explained that he aimed to set up a seminar for councillors to explain the complexities of the situation in more detail.

In the meantime, various measures have been taken including school identifying an ‘inclusive practice lead’ who has participated in NurtureUK training.

A framework of professional learning has been created for learning assistants and early years staff to support and develop their practice.

While the exclusion rates are poor, attendance rates overall for schools in the Nithsdale area have improved.

Between April and September 2023 the attendance rate was recorded as 92.5 per cent, an increase on 0.6 period on the same period the previous year.

The attendance rate for looked after children is 86 per cent.