School exclusions are linked to knife crime, an influential committee of MPs has warned.
A report from the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee today also calls for all schools in areas with an “above-average risk of serious youth violence” to have a dedicated school police officer.
It says the number of under-18s admitted to hospital with knife injuries rose by a third between 2013-14 and 2017-18, and warns that the government’s serious violence strategy is a “completely inadequate response”.
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The report says: “We are concerned about the links between school exclusion and knife crime, which suggest that our education system is currently failing many children, including those most in need of holistic support and early intervention.
“There is a pressing need for more investment in wraparound support to keep a child in mainstream education.”
It identifies school exclusions as one of the factors "most likely to be driving the increase in serious youth violence", along with drug use, deprivation, social exclusion, and a lack of support services for young people.
The MPs say the evidence they received "emphasised the vulnerability of children expelled from mainstream education, and their potential exposure to criminal exploitation".
The suggestion of a link between exclusions and knife crime has proved controversial in the past.
However, in March the then education secretary Damian Hinds warned that “we should not draw a simple causal link from exclusions to crime”, a view which was echoed by Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman.
Today’s report says it is “absolutely vital” for the Home Office to prioritise investment in neighbourhood policing and safer schools officers in the next spending review.
It adds: “By the beginning of April 2020, all schools in areas with an above-average risk of serious youth violence should have a dedicated school police officer.”
The select committee report also calls for the government to act quickly to implement the recommendations of the DfE-commissioned Timpson Review, which examined school exclusions.
However, the MPs note that the review was criticised for its lack of recommendations to address the fact that black children are excluded at a higher rate than white children, even when controlling for other risk factors.
The report adds: “Given the links between school exclusion and serious violence, we are particularly concerned about this form of disparity, and do not regard Mr Timpson’s recommendations as sufficient to address it.
“The DfE should take action to tackle racial disproportionality in school exclusion, if necessary via a separate independent review.”
The government has been contacted for comment.