Mayor backs plan to tackle school exclusions fuelling youth violence

Mayor Sadiq Khan is backing a summit on school exclusions which are contributing to violence on the streets of the capital and costing £370,000 each.

Teachers, police, local authorities and community groups and parents meet on Wednesday to find ways to avoid excluding pupils under an ‘inclusion charter’ in the first London Education Summit.

Last year 30 teenagers were killed in the capital while last week two 16 year olds died from stab wounds in Greenwich. Analysis by City Hall and police task force the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has shown that exclusions contribute to the problem of violence among young people.

The VRU - which is hosting the summit - wants more done to ensure that pupils facing exclusion can continue their education and steer them away from criminality.

Its Inclusive and Nurturing Schools programme will work with 9,000 children and young people in 70 schools across seven London boroughs.

Boroughs included in the programme are selected based on the highest rates of suspensions, children in need, pupils on special educational needs, persistent absenteeism and domestic violence incidents.

More than 90 per cent of young people in detention had been excluded from school at some point, according to to figures from City Hall. Meanwhile Ofsted found that children excluded from school were twice as likely to carry a knife.

A study published in 2018 by the Institute for Public Police Research (IPPR) found that each excluded child is estimated to cost the state £370,000 each in extra education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs.

The mayor said: “I firmly believe in the importance of education and the support and guidance that good quality schools, colleges and alternative provision settings can give a young person.

“What’s also clear is that there is a direct correlation between school exclusions and serious violence affecting young people.

My Violence Reduction Unit is leading the way in breaking this link by bringing people together to make education more inclusive, and supporting our hard-working teachers who are doing everything they can to keep young people in schools and engaged with their education.

“It’s an important step in tackling exclusions and we could go further and faster if our local authorities were given greater funding, powers and responsibilities over school exclusions. To do that, we need a national focus, supported by the Government, to give every young person the support they need to receive an education and fulfil their potential.”

Martin Nicholson, headteacher at Grafton Primary School in Dagenham, said: “Inclusion must involve and embrace the whole school community. In order for inclusion to be truly meaningful to all it must become part of the culture of the organisation. It must be an inclusion culture that you live and breathe, and has to be built on relationships.

“It cannot be something that you demand from others but something you lead by example. A truly inclusive culture for schools should involve children, all staff, parents/carers, governors and the wider school community.

“I have been very fortunate to work in a Local Authority that truly promotes inclusion at all levels and something that our school has embraced openly and transparent.”

Since 2020, through the VRU, the Mayor has invested £7 million in tackling exclusions, supporting children during key vulnerable moments, such as the transition from primary to secondary school, and by investing in mentoring in Pupil Referral Units.

More than 4,000 young people have been supported this year with positive opportunities after school – which is the time of day when young people can often become involved in, or a victim of, violence.

The VRU is redoubling its focus to minimise exclusions with a new, targeted programme – backed up with nearly £2m investment – to tackle school exclusions, sexual harassment and abuse.