Damian Hinds has defended schools and headteachers against claims that they are partly to blame for the rise in knife crime.
The education secretary also used an article in the Times this afternoon to warn against making “a simple causal link” between school exclusions and knife crime.
He wrote after violent deaths among teenagers led some, including the police, London mayor Sadiq Khan and the children’s charity Barnardo’s, to argue that knife crime was linked to the number of pupils ‘off-rolled’ or excluded by schools.
Mr Hinds wrote: “While exclusion rates have been increasing over the past three years, they are certainly not at record levels and are below where they were in 2007.
“We should not draw a simple causal link from exclusions to crime. According to a 2018 Ministry of Justice study four-fifths of those who were found to be carrying a knife before the end of secondary school had never been permanently excluded from school.”
He added: “No head teacher goes into education to exclude their pupils - and no head teacher takes the decision to do so lightly.”
The education secretary went on to say that preventing knife crime is a problem for society as a whole, and “clearly schools cannot solve this alone but, of course, must be part of the solution.
“Education can act in concert with other services to provide a joined-up approach and safeguard against harm.”
Mr Hinds said that there is “a disturbingly high percentage of young people, who are either perpetrators or victims of crime, who have been in care”.
He said that for such children the state has the role of parents and the government would ensure local authorities, the police and health services collaborated locally to know which young people are at risk, and to be aware of emerging threats, such as gang activity, ‘county lines’ and sexual exploitation.
Former children’s minister Edward Timpson’s review for the DfE of exclusions would report soon, and Mr Hinds wrote: “I have been clear that schools retaining some responsibility for the pupils they place in alternative provision and permanently exclude is something we need to look at”.