Certainly drugs, crime, homelessness and exclusions are connected, but in my experience permanent exclusion is never first in the sequence of events leading to social alienation.
Reality is that all urban areas now contain disaffected groups of young people who subsist in a culture of drugs and crime, and who are largely beyond the influence of parents and the effective control of any state agency. Schools are victims of this malaise, not the cause.
Pupils (and their parents) who live in deprived communities have to resist the influence of anti-social groups on a daily basis and it is the job of a local community school to give them every possible assistance. The modern message for all schools is to put teaching and learning first, and it is the most deprived who are in most need of this approach.
Young homeless, drug-using criminals in our community invariably joined their social group long before their lifestyle and behaviour resulted in exclusion from school.
Headteachers know that permanently excluding such young people does not solve the problem either for the pupil concerned or the wider community, but it may still be better to move a source of intimidation, drug abuse, criminal activity and disruption to teaching and learning to the other side of the school gate, rather than force those pupils who desperately need the help of the school to suffer a continual erosion in the quality of the education.
Schools will want to support and participate in programmes designed to achieve social inclusion, but there must be an enhanced role for many other agencies including the police, social services, heath authorities and local education authorities.
The urgent need is for effective partnerships to be formed.
Naive and misinformed blaming of schools will not help.
1 Rowe Head Court Pennington, Cumbria