Stop Blaming Exclusions for Knife Crime

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We believe that schools must be able to, when necessary, exclude children in order to ensure the safety and learning of their pupils. We call on those who have blamed violent crime on schools and exclusions to retract their baseless claims, on the government to reaffirm its support for headteachers’ right to exclude when necessary, and on everyone involved to ensure that alternative provision for excluded pupils is as good as possible.

The narrative that excluding pupils causes dangerous or disruptive behaviour, rather than the other way around, is damaging and has minimal evidence behind it. Schools only undertake the difficult decision to exclude pupils when it is in the best interests of the vast majority of quiet, hardworking pupils who are not exhibiting this behaviour. To suggest otherwise is insulting to teachers who want the best for all children in their care.

There has also been increasing conflation between legal exclusions and illegal off-rolling. We fully condemn off-rolling, but stress that it is a rare occurrence, with just three cases identified by Ofsted to date. Many of those most fiercely linking exclusions to knife crime are making this mistake, and it further tarnishes schools who have followed the law with their exclusions process.

Ofsted have made clear that they have “seen no convincing evidence that exclusions, in and of themselves, lead to knife crime.” The Ministry of Justice have said that “the low volumes of knife possession offences following exclusions mean any such association could not be a significant driver of youth knife possession offending overall.” And yet some have pointed the finger at schools for taking difficult decisions to keep their pupils safe. This is wrong and unhelpful, and such a narrative will damage schools’ ability to maintain a safe and calm environment for learning.