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Camden to probe link between school exclusions and knife crime

Exclusive: Councillors concerned by high rate of exclusions as it emerged nearly 1 in 10 pupils are sent home every year

21 February, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Cllr Samata Khatoon

AN inquiry into a possible link between rising knife crime and school exclusion rates has been launched after a report revealed almost one in 10 of Camden’s secondary school pupils are kicked out each year.

Families, education experts and senior politicians will be summoned to the Town Hall to give evidence about why Camden “schools are excluding huge numbers of children”.

A standards report, debated by the council’s children, schools and families scrutiny committee on Monday, found that 8.6 per cent of pupils were excluded on a temporary basis in 2016-17. Of the 1,005 “fixed-term” exclusions, 241 were for “physical assault against a pupil” while 71 were for attacks on staff.

Thirty children were permanently excluded. Samata Khatoon, a councillor in Somers Town who sits on the council’s schools scrutiny committee, said: “The figures show that our schools are excluding huge numbers of children each year. We want to see if there is a link with exclusions and why knife crime has increased. We wanted to make sure that’s being looked at properly and that there are some sort of early prevention measures in place, especially when pupils move to secondary school. We need to keep track of individual children.”

The news of the investigation comes on the first anniversary of the night when two teenagers died from knife attacks in Camden and in a week in which another young man died from stab wounds in Euston.

Cllr Khatoon said the panel will have a strong focus on whether there is a connection between “increased levels of exclusions and violent crime”.

It will hear evidence from “parents, schools, teaching bodies and teachers as well as pupils – much as the House of Commons Select Committee – but with a Camden focus.”

A parliamentary select committee published a report last month with recommendations on how to lower exclusion rates. In particular, the council panel will probe the background of excluded pupils and what chance – if any – they have of “reintegrating” into school life.

The report about education standards for 2016-17 – the most recent annual statistics available – warned of an “increase in the overall exclusion rate in secondary of white British” pupils, adding: “Camden permanent exclusion data is higher than the national and London average and these have tragic consequences on a young person’s future life chances.”

The breakdown of the figures shows that just one per cent of teenagers were excluded for racism, and two per cent for bullying. One per cent were excluded for alcohol or drugs.

Last Wednesday, Somali parents told a meeting of the Youth Safety Taskforce at the Somali Youth Development Resource Centre that exclusion rates were disproportionately affecting Somali children.

The report to the council said “there were declines in all measures for Somali pupils” when it came to attainment and results for the GCSE-level “cohort” in 2018.

While exclusion rates were below the national average for primary schools, at secondary schools they were higher. Camden’s primary schools have for many years been rated among the best in the country – recently the borough topped national tables for state-funded primary schools.

Despite this, the performance of Camden’s secondary schools has remained consistently below average when set against national statistics. Every year there is an exodus of pupils out of Camden after primary school –– just under a third leave the borough or are sent to private schools.

Councillor Julian Fulbrook said: “One very important fact is that some 28 per cent of Camden’s primary school pupils sadly go out of borough to secondary schools elsewhere. “Some, like in my area in south Camden, are forced to go because there is no local secondary school. Add on the four per cent of Camden primary pupils that go private at secondary level, and that means we are haemorrhaging a third of our children.”

Councillors Oliver Lewis, Paul Tomlinson, Samata Khatoon and Stephen Stark are expected to sit on the inquiry panel.

A council statement said:  “Our schools operate on the basis that exclusion is an absolute last resort. We have seen considerable progress in keeping children in our schools with only nine permanent exclusions in the 2018 autumn term. This does not necessarily mean that those students are then outside of the school system, with most simply moving on to a new school.

“We want to provide every support we can to our schools on this difficult and sensitive issue and are working on a number of projects to reduce exclusions through early intervention and prevention, as well as setting up a member’s panel to look in more detail at the effects of exclusion within Camden.”

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