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ADHD & Education

All children and young people, including those with ADHD, have the right to a school experience that provides a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum, including the National Curriculum, which is appropriately tailored according to their needs.3

One study in the UK showed that two-thirds of parents of children with ADHD had been in contact with teachers about their concerns.26 However several studies have shown that teachers’ perceived competence in the management of children with ADHD in the classroom is variable and is correlated with their professional knowledge and experience.27 In one report 43% of specialists felt that teachers were not aware of ADHD so they didn’t realise children should be referred.9 By increasing teachers’ knowledge of ADHD, alongside the provision of clear advice on how to work with children who might have ADHD, identification and therefore outcomes in the long term may be improved.

In the US, clinical practice guidelines highlight the importance of involving teachers in the process of diagnosing ADHD by completing rating scales and providing information about possible symptoms and impairment in the school setting.28

  • This highlights that teachers have the potential to play a crucial role in assisting with timely and accurate ADHD identification and that more could be done in the normal classroom setting to raise awareness, reduce stigma and improve teachers’ knowledge of symptoms of ADHD and the resulting educational needs.

School Exclusion

Exclusion from school is the first event that can label a child ‘a problem’. Guidance makes it clear that the removal of a pupil from the school environment should be used only as a last resort in response to ‘serious breaches’ of a school’s behaviour policy, or to safeguard the welfare and education of other pupils. However, there is a definite case to investigate further whether students who are being excluded for persistent disruptive behaviour (PDB), who are not registered as having any form of special educational needs, may in fact be students who have unrecognised ADHD.1

In the "ADHD: Paying Enough Attention report", 97% of those surveyed stated that children with undiagnosed ADHD are more likely to drop out of school several years earlier than their peers.9

The former Government white paper, ‘Back on Track’, states that 66% of permanently excluded children and 75% of children in PRUs have special educational needs.29

Children with ADHD have more than 100 times greater risk of being permanently excluded from school than other children:1

  • 39% of children with ADHD have had fixed term exclusions from school
  • 11% of excluded children with ADHD have been excluded permanently.

The social impact of exclusion is well established, with evidence showing an increased likelihood of antisocial and criminal behaviour:1

  • 49% of male and 33% of female sentenced prisoners were excluded from school.

Though it would be incorrect to suggest that ADHD is synonymous with antisocial behaviour, the Youth Crime Action Plan identified ADHD as one of the main risk factors of criminal offending during childhood.30


“...Too many young people with ADHD are moving from classroom to courtroom. This has to stop.”

Professor Susan Young, Forensic and Clinical Psychologist