Growing numbers of children excluded from school in Croydon and across London are being left at risk of involvement in knife crime and violence, according to research from children’s charity Barnardo’s and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime.
In Croydon, more than 1,500 pupils have been excluded from their schools in each of the two most recent years for which figures have been made available. According to Barnardo’s, “Children excluded from mainstream schools are at serious risk of being groomed and exploited by criminal gangs.”
Barnardo’s surveyed all local authorities in England and discovered one-quarter in London have no vacant places in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), potentially leaving children vulnerable to violence and criminal exploitation.
And YouGov polling, commissioned by Barnardo’s ahead of a cross-party meeting on knife crime in Parliament reveals that the majority of Londoners with children are concerned about increasing levels of knife crime and serious youth violence.
• 55% of parents (of children aged 18 and under) in London believe more children are becoming involved in knife crime and serious youth violence.
• 86% of parents (of children aged 18 and under) in the capital are worried that excluded children are more at risk of being involved in knife crime and serious youth violence than those in mainstream education.
• 59% of parents (of children aged 18 and under) in London do not think there is enough resources to support children that have been excluded from school to reduce the risk of them getting involved in knife crime and serious youth violence.
These figures follow a 56 per cent rise in exclusions since 2014 and growing concerns over rising “unofficial” exclusions, causing a crisis in support for vulnerable excluded pupils.
Growing evidence shows that excluded children who are not offered a full-time place in a PRU are at increased risk of involvement in criminal activity.
In Croydon, the most recent available figures (for school year 2016-2017) show 1,525 pupils were excluded from their schools, 41 of them permanently. This was down from the previous year, when 1,676 pupils were excluded (24 permanently).
In 2016-2017, the Croydon schools which excluded most pupils were:
- Edenham High 166 (6 permanently)
- Oasis Shirley Park 144 (1 permanently)
- St Andrew’s High 143 (0 permanently)
- Oasis Arena 109 (3 permanently)
- Thomas More 78 (2 permanently)
Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central who founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime, today called for more support for children who are excluded from school and at risk of involvement in crime and violence.
Barnardo’s is working with youth health charity Redthread and the APPG on Knife Crime to investigate the causes, with links being observed between exclusions from school and levels of youth violence. Barnardo’s is calling for the Government to increase high-quality support for excluded children, to ensure they stay in full-time education.
Data obtained by Barnardo’s, under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that “alternative provision” for excluded children is at breaking point, with nearly one-quarter of London councils having no vacant spaces in pupil referral units as of July 1 this year.
“Knife crime is at the highest level on record, this is a public health crisis and our schools are on the frontline,” Jones said.
“Exclusions are rising in London and in many cases there is literally nowhere for those children to go. This is heartbreaking. Schools need resources to support pupils through difficult periods. Too many children are being socially excluded and marked as failures, with tragic consequences for our capital.”
Javed Khan, Barnardo’s chief executive, said: “Preventing serious youth violence is everyone’s business – and schools along with police, charities and others have a key role to play. Exclusion must be a last resort, and all children must have access to high quality full-time education, that gives them the best possible chance of achieving good grades, and staying safe from harm.
“We know children excluded from mainstream schools are at serious risk of being groomed and exploited by criminal gangs.
“We urge the Government to help schools to reduce the number of children who are excluded, and improve the quality of alternative provision, so vulnerable young people get the help they need to achieve a positive future.”
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