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Children excluded from school 'are at risk of knife crime'

Release Date: 30 Oct 2018

Exclusive research for Barnardo’s and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime reveals children who have been excluded from school may be at serious risk of involvement in knife crime and youth violence.

Barnardo’s, the UK’s leading children’s charity, surveyed all local authorities in England (via a Freedom of Information Request) and discovered one in three who responded 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 reveals that the majority of parents are concerned about the increase in knife crime and serious youth violence in Britain. 72% of parents (of children aged 18) and under think that excluded children are more at risk of being involved in knife crime and serious youth violence.

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.

Today’s figures follow a 56% rise in exclusions since 2014 and growing concerns over rising ‘unofficial’ exclusions, causing a crisis in support for vulnerable excluded pupils.

Barnardo’s is working with youth health charity Redthread and the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Knife Crime, chaired by Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones, to investigate the root causes of knife crime.

An expert panel, including the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield will give evidence to the APPG in Parliament today on how to break the link between exclusions and youth violence. Ahead of the meeting Barnardo’s is calling for the Government to urgently 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.

Forty-seven of the councils across England which responded revealed they had no vacant spaces in state pupil referral units as of 1 July 2018 (PRUs). Even where there is space, there is a postcode lottery in terms of the quality of education they will receive.

Nationally almost one in five spaces are in alternative provision that Ofsted has rated inadequate or requires improvement.

And an excluded child in the North East is around eight times as likely to attend an ‘inadequate’ provision (46%) as the national average (6%).

Meanwhile, YouGov polling reveals the majority of parents (54%) think more children are becoming involved in knife crime and serious youth violence compared to last year.

77% of parents who think these are increasing or remaining consistent are worried about the problem, while 72% of all parents surveyed think children who are excluded from school are more at risk of these problems. And 65% of parents think there isn’t currently enough support to reduce the risk of excluded children getting involved in knife crime and serious youth violence.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan 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.

Sarah Jones, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime and MP for Croydon Central, said:

Knife crime is at the highest level on record, this is a public health crisis and our schools are on the frontline.

Exclusions are rising 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.

Professionals talk about the ‘PRU to prison pipeline’. The system is failing these young people."

Redthread Chief Executive John Poyton said:

Youth violence is one of the many health inequalities faced by young people today. As with other health issues, it is essential we diagnose the root causes of why young people become caught up in cycles of violence.

This research highlights that lack of educational engagement is one of these root causes and can all too often lead to young people becoming involved in serious youth violence.

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