The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and eight police and crime commissioners (PCCs) have written to the prime minister, Theresa May, arguing that school exclusions and ‘off-rolling’ have contributed to a surge in knife crime. In the letter they say ‘There is growing evidence to show that our most vulnerable children are more likely to be excluded or off-rolled from school and additionally that excluded children are at much greater risk of becoming either perpetrators or victims of serious youth violence’. The letter goes on to say that since 2013/14, the number of young people permanently excluded across England has risen by 56 per cent, and the signatories say ‘Our schools are facing significant funding pressures and many interventions for our most vulnerable children are being cut. This cannot be right, and schools must have the necessary resources to deliver good interventions and support to those at risk of exclusion.’ They call for action from the government including giving local authorities ‘powers and responsibilities’ over all school exclusions and for the practice of ‘off-rolling’ to be outlawed.
Commenting on the letter Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT school leaders union, said: ‘We agree with much of this letter. School budgets are at breaking point and many interventions for our most vulnerable young people are being cut’. He also echoed the letter in blaming the apparent rise in violent crime on a range of factors including ‘deep-seated problems of poverty, inequality, social alienation, cuts to police, local authority and school funding, and a lack of opportunities for young people.’ However, he pushed back at the suggestion that school leaders should lose some of their autonomy to exclude pupils, saying ‘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’.
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