Pupils who have been excluded from school may be at serious risk of being sucked into knife crime and gang violence, a major children’s charity and a group of MPs have warned.
A survey of English local authorities by Barnardo’s and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime found that a third have no free places for excluded students in pupil referral units.
Students outside mainstream schooling also face a postcode lottery as almost a fifth of alternative provision places are in providers rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement” by Ofsted.
Excluded children in the North East are eight times more likely to attend “inadequate” provision than the national average.
“Knife crime is at the highest level on record. This is a public health crisis and our schools are on the front line,” said Sarah Jones, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime.
“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.”
Excluded children 'risk getting involved in knife crime'
A YouGov survey commissioned ahead of a meeting of the group today also revealed growing concern among parents about exclusions, which rose 15 per cent last year.
Nearly three-quarters of parents whose children are under 18 said that excluded students are more at risk of getting involved in knife crime and serious youth violence.
Two-thirds of more than 4,000 people surveyed also said they thought there was not enough support to stop excluded children being sucked in by gangs.
“We know children excluded from mainstream schools are at serious risk of being groomed and exploited by criminal gangs,” said Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan.
“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.”
The findings echo comments from London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, Sophie Linden, who warned that school exclusions are driving rising levels of knife crime in the capital.
This month home secretary Sajid Javid vowed to make it a statutory duty for schools and other public agencies to tackle rising gang violence on the streets of UK cities.
Police statistics from 2017 showed that while overall crime rates dropped in England and Wales, knife crimes rose 22 per cent from the previous year to the highest level since 2010.