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Don’t exclude pupils dealing drugs – education will stop them joining gangs says Suffolk police chief

Police are encouraging schools use exclusion as a last resort to prevent disruptive pupils joining gangs. Stock picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Police are encouraging schools use exclusion as a last resort to prevent disruptive pupils joining gangs. Stock picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Excluding school pupils involved in dealing drugs or possessing knives may push children into the hands of gangs, a Suffolk police chief has warned.

Acting Superintendent Simon Mills. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDActing Superintendent Simon Mills. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Schools are being urged to consider alternative options to exclusion in a bid to keep children off the streets.

Ultimately it is the school’s decision whether to exclude a pupil, but police teams in Suffolk say they are now working with teachers to determine whether the action is necessary.

It is part of a wider initiative the force is undertaking to prevent attraction to gangs.

Acting Superintendent Simon Mills of Suffolk Constabulary said: “One example of where we are trying to work with partners to prevent the attraction to gangs is where youngsters are caught doing things at school, whether it’s doing drugs or possession of a knife, and the school’s decision is to exclude them. This can push these children into the hands of gangs.”

Some secondary school governors have concerns. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTOSome secondary school governors have concerns. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO

He added: What we are saying is don’t exclude them. We need to educate them in school. Don’t send them out on the streets.

“This is one option amongst many being used to mitigate the risk to our young persons.”

However, some parents and governors already have their concerns.

One school governor raised the issue at a recent public meeting in Ipswich – suggesting it was creating further difficulties for schools.

They said disruptive pupils or those found to be dealing drugs generally need to be excluded to not affect the education and wellbeing of others.

Richard Thomas, executive officer at the Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads, said it was a complicated issue already being worked on by teachers.

He said: “Schools in Suffolk do their utmost to use exclusion as a last resort anyway, but we would welcome plans to work with the police more on this issue in the near future.

“It can be very difficult to determine whether a pupil needs to be excluded, and on most occasions if they are they are further educated in pupil referral units to reduce disruption in classrooms.

“We always try various other options before excluding a pupil and try to help them in every way possible.”

He added: “There is a lot of pressure on schools to respond to such cases and we try to do our utmost.

“It would be good to with police to discuss the problem further.”

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, said there needs to be a multi-agency approach around children at risk of exclusion.

“I was very pleased that the school governor came along to our public meeting in Ipswich last month to highlight this issue,” he said.

“I understand the school’s need to exclude disruptive children and appreciate they would only do this as a last resort.

“As Superintendent Kerry Cutler explained at the meeting, there needs to be a multi-agency approach around the children at risk of exclusion and I fully support plans for this collective approach.

“This year we have invested in three PSCOs specifically to work in schools across the county.”

He added: “A key element of their role is to help schools deal with children at risk of exclusion. I absolutely believe that early intervention is key in stopping lives spiralling in the wrong direction.

“I think it is very sad when job opportunities in later life could be because of mistakes made during their teenage years.”

What do you think of the plans? Send your thoughts here. (emily.townsend@archant.co.uk)

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