Exclusions up at Redbridge’s schools as police chiefs warn of possible link to knife crime
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Exclusions at Redbridge’s schools have increased by 31per cent since 2013, with police chiefs warning this could be contributing to a surge in knife crime.
Police commissioners from seven forces across England and Wales have written to prime minister Theresa May, calling for urgent action to fix the “broken” school system.
The letter – which was co-signed by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan – argues that exclusions put vulnerable children at risk of being sucked into violent crime.
“Clearly, the way the education system deals with excluded young people is broken,” the police chiefs’ letter reads.
“It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education.”
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In 2016-17, secondary schools in Redbridge handed out 1,279 exclusions to children, the latest Department for Education data shows, of which 40 were permanent.
This was a rate of five exclusions for every 100 pupils, and an increase of almost a third from 2013-14 when there were just 978 exclusions.
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The rise is not restricted to Redbridge and the exclusion rate has also increased across the country since 2013 by 44pc.
Kash Malik, of Redbridge’s National Union of Teachers, said exclusions are on the increase because headteachers are concerned about positions and grades.
“There are schools across the country who are excluding children so their league tables go up,” he said.
“When you exclude lower grade pupils, average grades do up and in turn, more people want to go to that school and they get more funding.
“This is what education has become - it is so sad.”
Mr Malik said it is of no surprise that excluded children become involved in less positive activities.
“If you are excluded it is almost guaranteed that you will muck about,” he added.
“You spend weeks, months maybe, before you are sent to an exclusion unit - there is no doubt that you can get caught up in silly stuff.”
The letter to Mrs May also calls for off-rolling – where pupils are removed from the school roll without a formal exclusion – to be outlawed, and for greater funding for schools to improve early intervention for children at risk of exclusion.
The National Association of Headteachers said it backed the majority of the police chiefs’ points, stating: “School budgets are at breaking point and many interventions for our most vulnerable young people are being cut.”
However, it added that violent crime was the result of “deep-seated problems” – including poverty, inequality, and cuts to police and council budgets – and could not be blamed on exclusions alone.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, added: “A school’s first duty is the safety of its students, and so school leaders need to retain the autonomy to exclude a violent pupil in order to keep everyone else safe.”
A Department for Education spokesman said permanent exclusions should only ever be a last resort.
“It is still vital that young people who are excluded from school are able to engage with high-quality teaching and education,” he said.
“That’s why we have launched a £4million fund which is delivering projects to improve outcomes for children in alternative provision, including pupil referral units.”
A Redbridge Council spokeswoman said: “We continue to be concerned that reductions in council and school budgets are not enabling us to make the interventions that might best prevent exclusion and knife crime.
“However, despite the increase in recent years, exclusions in our schools remain comparatively low and we recognise the considerable efforts that schools are making to avoid this course of action low and we recognise the considerable efforts that schools are making to avoid this course of action.”
Ofsted said it had seen no convincing evidence that exclusions lead to knife crime or gang violence.