Exclusions up at North Yorkshire’s schools as police chiefs warn of link to knife crime

Exclusions at North Yorkshire's schools have increased by 20% since 2010, as police chiefs have warned this could be contributing to a surge in knife crime.
Exclusions at North Yorkshire's schools have increased by 20% since 2010, as police chiefs have warned this could be contributing to a surge in knife crime.

Exclusions at North Yorkshire’s schools have increased by 20% since 2010, as police chiefs have warned this could be contributing to a surge in knife crime.

Police commissioners from seven forces across England and Wales have written to Prime Minister Theresa May, calling for urgent action to fix the “broken” school system.

The letter – which was co-signed by the Police and Crime Commissioners for the South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and Humberside police forces – argues that exclusions put vulnerable children at risk of being sucked into violent crime.

In 2016-17, secondary schools in North Yorkshire handed out 4,133 exclusions to children, the latest Department for Education data shows.

This was a rate of 11 exclusions for every 100 pupils, and a 20% increase from 2010-11 when there were 3,456 exclusions, or nine per 100 pupils.

“Clearly, the way the education system deals with excluded young people is broken,” the police chiefs’ letter reads.

“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 North Yorkshire Police, the police force which covers the local authority, have increased by more than 50% in the last four years, the latest ONS figures show.

The force recorded 229 offences involving a knife or a sharp weapon between April 2017 and March 2018.

In 2013-14, there were 145 cases.

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.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “A school’s first duty is the safety of its students, and so school leaders need to retain the autonomy to exclude a violent pupil in order to keep everyone else safe.”

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

In North Yorkshire, there were 77 permanent and 4,056 temporary, or fixed-term, exclusions in 2016-17.

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 £4m fund which is delivering projects to improve outcomes for children in alternative provision, including pupil referral units.”