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Headteachers at the sharp end of school exclusions debate

15 August, 2019

Alex Smith

THIS Tuesday marked 25 years since the murder of Somers Town schoolboy Richard Everitt.

That devastating knife attack of a 15-year-old will be well remembered by older residents of Camden and particularly Somers Town. It was in a time riven by racial and “gang” tensions.

The anniversary was laced with a tragic irony as it came on the day that news of 16-year-old Alex Smith was filtering through from the Regent’s Park estate.

There is, at times, a futility to the knife crime debate.

After so many public meetings, so many marches and campaigns – the cycle of ­violence continues.

Are politicians properly equipped, financially and ideologically, to solve this crisis?

Reviews fall like platitudes, and are no longer enough.

The death, like the others that have preceded it, should sound another urgent call for radical changes, and we hope council’s forthcoming inquiry into links between school exclusions and knife crime will provide a useful insight into the education system.

It is easy to criticise schools, and headteachers, for their part in the violence. They have been cut to the bone following years of austerity, left without the resources to cope with troublesome pupils.

And yet questions must be asked about whether exclusions should ever be used as discipline.

Awareness of the rising number of pupils being excluded from English schools has grown to the point where the problem has become impossible to ignore.

Haverstock School have set up a unit for children who may be at risk of exclusions.

The Anna Freud Centre’s “Kantor Centre of Excell­ence” has begun providing a unique service for children struggling in mainstream schools.

Many have illnesses such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias or ­anxiety. Few get profes­sional help. The programme, opened by the Duchess of Cambridge, may have come too late for Alex.

About faces. . .

THE regeneration of King’s Cross, despite what officials say, has always had a bad stench about it.

The number of family-sized homes built there is nothing short of a scandal, while the nestling of corporate firms there has left the area without a community feel.

There are now serious questions about how mysterious facial recognition technology is being used to track the public as they go about their day.

The software has been criticised by human rights group Liberty as “a disturbing expansion of mass surveillance”.

The council has exalted the Argent-led development there since day one. But with this surveillance of the public (and its own staff) Argent may have gone too far even for the Town Hall.

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