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Nearly 700 children excluded from Camden schools in a year, data reveals

New pledge to work with the families of pupils at risk of removal

12 September, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Cllr Samata Khatoon 

NEARLY 700 children were excluded from Camden’s schools in a year, council data has revealed as the Town Hall pledged to focus on why so many were being removed from classes.

Councillors reviewing the new research gathered as the result of concerns about the extent schools were using exclusions – and the knock-on effects for those involved – said they were worried pupils from black backgrounds were being hardest hit.

Experts warned earlier this year that there could be a link between the level of exclusions and a rise in violent youth crime.

The data presented to the cross-party children’s scrutiny committee on Monday evening showed that 679 pupils were excluded, either on a permanent or fixed-term basis – a figure which amounts to 3 percent of the school population.

Analysing the statistics, Camden found that 9.7 per cent of those excluded in the borough were from a Somali background while 9 per cent are black Caribbean.

Martin Pratt, executive director of supporting people, who presented the data to the committee, said: “There is still this worrying trend and we are going to continue to focus on that.

“We will be renewing our commitment to work with community organisations and schools to think about how to address that issue. It is something we have to understand and tackle head on. It is quite shocking to see it and it gives us the chance to understand it better.”

Martin Pratt

The council has said the exclusion rates are expected to drop this year. Fixed-term exclusions (FTE), where a pupil may be excluded for one or more fixed periods up to a maximum of 45 school days in a year, have so far dropped to 446, compared with 844 during the spring and summer school terms last year.

The high numbers in spring last year was said to be largely driven by a single school – unnamed at the meeting – where a new behaviour policy was introduced following an Ofsted inspection which concluded that the school “require[d] improvement”.

There were 25 permanent exclusions in 2017-18. In March, Labour councillor Samata Khatoon suggested setting up a special panel to carry out evidence-based research to see if excluded children were being let down and seduced by gangs and youth crime.

“I don’t want to lose track of that,” she said at Monday’s meeting, adding: “Recently there has been another stabbing in Gospel Oak and another child was stabbed [last month] who had been excluded from school. What we need is more evidence from young people excluded from school. I think there is more we can learn.”

She added: “Nobody knows what is going on. We need to know what we are doing for the Afro-Caribbean community and what kind of provision we need to provide for them.”

A new unit is soon to be launched at Haverstock School for pupils at risk of being excluded, while provision at Rhyl Primary School sees pupils attend for two terms before being reintegrated into their mainstream school.

Mr Pratt said: “We are not just concerned about exclusion but we are concerned about what that means for the lives of those children.”

Education chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “We do need to do more with parents with children at risk of exclusion and how to support them.”

Specialist is recruited to tutor on youth conflicts

Achland Burghley teacher Hiri Arunagiri with head Nicholas John

A YOUTH campaigner is being called in to help students understand how to deal with conflict at a Camden secondary school.

Acland Burghley, in Tufnell Park, will hold workshops with Chris Preddie – who was granted an OBE for his work steering young people away from gangs – and after-school sport sessions as part of the programme. The aim is to support students at risk of being drawn into crime.

The initiative is being funded by a £25,000 grant from Camden Council’s youth safety taskforce, set up after a young man was murdered in 2017.

Headteacher Nicholas John, said: “It’s about what you can do to change behaviour before it gets to that point.” Mr John said the school are starting by looking into which pupils at the school will benefit most from the programme.

He added: “Very often you find it is children who are very good in school and have very good attendance. If you were involved in criminal activity, why wouldn’t you recruit the bright, streetwise children.”

Chris Preddie OBE

It comes after Alex Smith, 16, who was excluded from Acland Burghley, was stabbed to death on Regent’s Park Estate last month.

The school did not want to comment on specific pupil cases but say they have “an inclusive approach.”

Mr John said that the school, which was undersubscribed until recently, has taken on a number of pupils who have complex needs.

Mr Preddie was already working at Acland Burghley and had worked with Alex.

Mr John said the funding will go towards more workshops with Mr Preddie and they will “formalise” their approach. Another portion of the funding will be used by the school to develop a programme of support for Somali students.

Hiri Arunagiri, who works on early intervention at the school, said: “We can notice trends and if we feel something isn’t right, we can give bespoke support to those students. We have got to get better at integrating and working with different communities.”

Mr John said: “Schools are part of the solution rather than the problem, We are very aware all of the time.”

He added: “Sometimes you are working with a child and then realise you are not making an impact, not changing their behaviour, not changing what they do on a Friday night, not changing where they are going or who they are going out with.

“I think it is about scaling up all of us in the community toward making an impact and change.”

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