CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Excluded pupils ‘are vulnerable to gangs’

Camden adamant it does not 'off-roll' to massage figures

01 March, 2019

Anne Longfield

THE Children’s Commissioner has warned school exclusion rates had been “rocketing” in Camden and the practice was funnelling already disadvantaged children towards serious violence and crime.

Anne Longfield said excluded children were “much more likely” to be targeted by gangs.

She was responding to details of an inquiry launched by the council last week – and revealed by the New Journal – on the back of statistics showing nearly one in 10 secondary school pupils were temporarily excluded in one year.

Ms Longfield believes the reported statistics may be the tip of an iceberg across London and that some schools may be involved in “off-rolling” to boost overall results and climb league tables – the practice of encouraging parents to voluntarily elect home education for their children, meaning they disappear from the school roll rather than feature in exclusion numbers.

She said: “Exclusions are rocketing in Camden and across the country. We know that disadvantaged children are much more likely to be excluded as are children with special educational needs. Once excluded from school children are much more likely to be vulnerable to grooming, gangs, serious violence and getting into trouble with the law.”

Ms Longfield added: “There should be a new presumption that children should not be excluded unless it is a last resort, with schools held accountable by Ofsted. Schools should support children with additional needs and do more to identify children at risk of exclusion and find ways to support them to stay in school.”

Camden Council said its schools only ever excluded pupils as a last resort and that it had set up a scheme in a primary school to better identify children at risk of exclusion in later life. The exclusion rate for the past term is also said to be significantly down on previous years. The commissioner last month published a stinging report warning that vulnerable children were being failed by the exclusions system across the country. In her report, Skipping School, she said there had been a “loss of kindness, patience and skill” in some state-funded secondary schools that are struggling financially. She said: “Schools have always been places of rough and tumble, where the carefree days of early childhood meet the reality of work, of timetables, of expectations, and more complex social relationships.”

The council’s schools chief, Angela Mason, said “off-rolling” was not a problem in Camden schools but it was “an important issue”, adding: “Off-rolling is a way of playing the system – schools in other areas of London use it as a way to massage their performance or exclusion figures, even though the arrangement may not be in the best interests of the child. Some Camden children attend out-of-borough schools, so we are deeply concerned by the use of off-rolling.”

Cllr Mason added: “We are driving down exclusions working closely with schools and opening new facilities to provide specialist support. We have just opened the new satellite at Rhyl Primary School for children at risk of exclusion, which provides a space where they can be removed from the classroom for a period of time and get the intensive support they need. “We have a similar programme for secondary school children and are considering options for where this could be permanently based.”

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