In response to the open letter from the Confederation of School Trusts, I would like to make it clear that I am not in any way blaming teachers, headteachers and schools for the rise in knife crime. I have family members who are schoolteachers and I know how incredibly hard they work to support children and to help them to become Londoners who can fulfil their potential. I also know how important it is to be able to exclude the most disruptive pupils, not least for the sake of the other students.
However, the same hugely complex, deep-seated factors that can lead to a young person being excluded are also often the factors that can play a part in someone being sucked into criminality. That is why, in my call to government, along with other police and crime commissioners, I stated that “the factors that are causing the rise are extremely complex and involve the deep-seated problems of poverty, inequality, social alienation, cuts to police, local authority and school funding, and a lack of opportunities for young people”. We also highlighted that “our schools are facing significant funding pressures, and many interventions for our most vulnerable children are being cut. This cannot be right and schools must have the necessary resources to deliver good interventions and support to those at risk of exclusion".
It is tackling these complex factors that is at the heart of the public health approach to reducing violent crime that I am introducing in London via the Violence Reduction Unit.
'Too many school exclusions'
I am concerned that pupils that are excluded and “off-rolled” too often don’t get the support they need to get their lives back on track. I am worried that proper information sharing and coordination between all the relevant agencies isn’t happening as well as it should be. I have been clear in arguing for more resources for our schools over many years – extra funding that would help in this area.
That’s why, alongside other police and crime commissioners from across the country, I am urging the government to take action by outlawing off-rolling completely to ensure that our most vulnerable young people get the support they need and deserve. We also cannot ignore the fact that excluded children are at much greater risk of becoming either victims or perpetrators of serious youth violence. We need to improve the way exclusions work, and to ensure the funding is in place to support those excluded.
I am in full agreement with Leora Cruddas that we need to work together to find the right policy solutions for the complex issue of crime in our city, which includes ensuring that the most vulnerable children and teenagers are supported both inside and outside education.
Mayor of London