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Exclusions: the continuing saga of what we don’t know

12 April, 2019 — By John Gulliver

Cllr Oliver Lewis and, right, Martin Pratt

A LEAKED email that has come my way reveals how little a senior children’s committee know about one of the most pressing problems facing schools – exclusions of children, even as young as eight or nine.

I first wrote about what is virtually a scandal last autumn after dropping in at a meeting of Camden’s Children, Schools and Family Scrutiny Committee. The figures were pretty staggering: nearly 1,000 children had been excluded – some for a few days, others pretty permanently – in 2017.

But beyond the global figure little else was revealed. Which schools? How old? What gender and race? The committee’s papers revealed nothing.

Finally it was decided to investigate the problem through a committee involving parents, teachers and pupils.

It will certainly be needed judging by an email from the scrutiny committee’s chairman, Councillor Oliver Lewis, setting questions for the department director Martin Pratt.

The questions reveal councillors groping for information.

It may be thought some of it should have been known to them at earlier committee meetings. And in today’s crisis of knife crime all of this
takes on a greater sense of urgency.

They want to know, among other things, the size of schools, their intake, staffing-pupil ratios where exclusions are being made – as well as facts about gender, age and ethnicity of those children banned from school. Also, they are keen to know how many are “permanently excluded”, and how they are “managed”.

And how many have been “off-rolled” and why the committee had been told that “no pupils are off-rolled in Camden”.

The twelfth question asks whether there is any “data” on excluded children caught up in the “criminal justice system – whether as victim or perpetrator”.

And what are “standard school guidelines” on exclusions bearing in mind “we are aware of the ‘one knife and you’re out’ policy”?

The committee set up the parliamentary-style investigation following a request by Councillor Samata Khatoon.

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