Ofsted: no evidence that exclusions cause knife crime

A report by Ofsted said that there is no evidence to support the claim that knife crime is linked to the rise in exclusions and that this is a “harmful narrative”. 

Mar 12, 2019
By Serena Lander

The Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said it is just as likely that exclusions and criminality are two symptoms of the same underlying problems.  

The report published today (March 12) comes after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and police and crime commissioners (PCCs) wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May claiming there is a link between the school exclusion system and rising levels of knife crime. 

This view appears to be supported by statistics that show dramatic reductions in violence in Scotland have been matched by a similar reduction in school exclusions. 

The letter called for ‘out-rolling’ – when children are removed from registers without being formally excluded – to be outlawed as the number of exclusions in England rose 56 per cent between 2013/14 and 2016/17 

And data revealed by HM Inspectorate of Prisons says that nine out ten children in custody have been excluded. 

The Children’s Commissioner for England has also criticised the lack of work being done to keep children in schools, particularly the vulnerable and disadvantaged who are disproportionately targeted. 

“Clearly, the way the education system deals with excluded young people is broken. It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education,” the letter to Mrs May reads. 

However, Ofsted argued that permanent exclusions are sometimes a “necessary and important sanction” which should be matched with a number of other actions. 

Headteachers should consider intervention to address any underlying causes and schools should be more consistent when contacting the police. The report found that “there is an overall lack of clarity on when police involvement is necessary”. This means that some children are more vulnerable to being criminalised for their behaviour than others.  

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime said that it hoped to use the public health approach seen in Glasgow to prevent the risk of a young person being excluded through its Violence Reduction Unit. 

Chairman of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee Steve O’Connell claimed that bringing the number of exclusions down and supporting those at risk of exclusion would be a key tactic in prevention of knife crime.  

It’s important schools do all they can to make sure their pupils are kept safe and on the right path, said Mr O’Connell. 

HoweverMs Spielman argued that this leads to a harmful narrative developing” which sees exclusions as causing children to join gangs or carry knives because, when they are excluded, they are put in very poor-quality alternative provision (AP) or pupil referral units (PRUs), and eventually fall out of the school system altogether. 

Rather, the report said, local authorities and the Government should consider that children who are being groomed by gangs to deal drugs or carry knives may be being coached by dangerous adults to get themselves excluded. 

Lynne Owens, Director General of the National Crime Agency (NCA), took to Twitter to highlight the prevalence of vulnerable children missing from education and involved in serious violenceA recent NCA report suggested that those excluded from mainstream schooling are often targeted by County Lines offenders.  

Ofsted agreed saying “children may have fewer protective factors” following exclusion if not admitted into another mainstream school or good-quality alternative provision or pupil referral unit.  

It recommended that schools and academies in London should ensure that their exclusion policy reflects the practice set out in the Department for Education’s statutory guidance. Additionally, local authorities should have a strategic response to permanent exclusions. 

Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s Regional Director for London, said: “Schools should be fully involved in local knife crime strategies, but too few are brought around the table. Only just over half of the schools surveyed were aware their borough had a knife crime strategy. Schools work effectively to keep their pupils safe, but they can be isolated from each other and other agencies, leading to inconsistencies in the way schools approach this issue. 

It is clear that there is an overwhelming desire from different agencies to reduce the prevalence of knife crime. I hope that this insight into the issue through the eyes of school leaders will create momentum across London for a more co-ordinated approach to protecting vulnerable children from the dangers of knife violence.” 

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