School exclusions in Devon rise, as several UK police bosses warn of link to knife crime

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:06 13 March 2019

Picture: Radar

Picture: Radar

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Exclusions at Devon's schools have increased by 45 per cent since 2013 and police chiefs have warned the national trend could be contributing to a surge in knife crime.

Police commissioners from seven forces across England and Wales – though not including Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez – have written to Prime Minister Theresa May, calling for urgent action to fix the ‘broken’ school system.

The letter argues that exclusions put vulnerable children at risk of being sucked into violent crime.

In 2016/17, secondary schools in Devon excluded children on 3,084 occasions, the latest Department for Education data shows.

This was a rate of eight exclusions for every 100 pupils, and a 45 per cent increase from 2013-14 when there were just 2,121 exclusions.

The letter reads: “Clearly, the way the education system deals with excluded young people is broken,

“It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education.”

Knife offences investigated by Devon and Cornwall Police have increased by almost a third in the last four years, the latest ONS figures show. The force recorded 398 offences involving a knife or a sharp weapon between April 2017 and March 2018.

In 2013/14, there were 301 cases.

Read Bin illegal knives without fear of prosecution – Devon holds knife amnesty week.

Across England and Wales, the number of fatal stabbings hit the highest level since comparable records began, more than 70 years ago.

The letter to Mrs May also calls for off-rolling – where pupils are removed from the school roll without a formal exclusion – to be outlawed, and for greater funding for schools to improve early intervention for children at risk of exclusion.

The National Association of Headteachers said it backed the majority of the police chiefs’ points, stating: “School budgets are at breaking point and many interventions for our most vulnerable young people are being cut.”

However, it added that violent crime was the result of ‘deep-seated problems’ – including poverty, inequality, and cuts to police and council budgets – and could not be blamed on exclusions alone.

Ofsted said it had seen no convincing evidence that exclusions lead to knife crime or gang violence.

In Devon, there were 87 permanent and 2,997 temporary, or fixed-term, exclusions in 2016-17.

Across the country, exclusions have increased by 44 per cent since 2013, climbing from 214,580 to 309,275.

The sharpest increase was in the involvement of permanent exclusions, which have risen by 60 per cent to 6,385.

A Department for Education spokesman said permanent exclusions should only ever be a last resort.

He said: “It is still vital that young people who are excluded from school are able to engage with high-quality teaching and education.

“That’s why we have launched a £4 million fund which is delivering projects to improve outcomes for children in alternative provision, including pupil referral units.”

The Herald recently reported on two pupils being excluded after a student took a knife to Ottery’s The Kings School.

Read Pupil excluded for taking knife to school for more.

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