MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee have wrongly conflated exclusions and knife crime, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has said.
He rebutted a claim made this week by committee chair, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who said that “there is a clear correlation between exclusions and knife crime”.
Need to know: Are teachers being made 'scapegoats' for knife crime?
Mr Barton said in a letter that Mr Halfon was “blaming schools for an issue which they have not caused”.
ASCL’s letter dismissed the committee’s call for councils to gain greater powers over monitoring exclusions and objected to the wording of a press release by Mr Halfon.
Mr Barton said there was no evidence of a causal link between exclusions and knife crime, and that most such attacks were anyway perpetrated by people aged over 18.
The committee had urged education secretary Damian Hinds to give councils wider powers to monitor exclusions.
Local authorities had a legal duty to find education for excluded children but, the committee told Mr Hinds, “do not have a sufficiently strong role to play in scrutinising schools’ approaches to exclusion in the first place".
“We urge the department to consider giving local authorities more power to monitor exclusions,” the MPs said.
But Mr Barton wrote: “Exclusion rates in individual schools are already scrutinised by Ofsted. It is difficult to see what would be achieved by giving local authorities more power to monitor exclusions, and how this would work in practice.”
His letter told Mr Halfon: “The causes of the rise in knife crime are clearly complex, but it is important that we focus our resources and energies as a society on factors that are proven to be linked to knife crime, rather than blaming schools for an issue which they have not caused.”
Schools excluded pupils “only after much thought and consideration” and the recent increase in the rate of permanent exclusions was “driven by real-terms cuts to school funding which have made it more difficult to provide early intervention”, Mr Barton said.
He added: “The biggest challenge in recent years has been the fact that local authority support services and police forces have been heavily cut back because of government spending cuts. This means there is less support for vulnerable families and children, and fewer police officers available.”
Mr Barton also attacked the committee’s press release on an earlier evidence session on knife crime held with Mr Hinds.
“It is a shame that the press release which accompanies your letter refers to concerns about ‘the poor quality of alternative provision for excluded pupils’,” Mr Barton wrote.
“I know you are aware that over 80% of alternative provision is rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted, and there is fantastic work being done by many providers to support young people with complex needs.”