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School exclusions driving children into gangs, PCC warns

PUBLISHED: 11:05 10 October 2018

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore said youngsters excluded from school was the penultimate step before gang recruitment Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore said youngsters excluded from school was the penultimate step before gang recruitment Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Questions have been raised over how effective school exclusions are, after concerns were raised that it could be driving youngsters into gangs.

Paul West from Suffolk County Council said exclusions were only ever a last resort Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILPaul West from Suffolk County Council said exclusions were only ever a last resort Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore raised the issue at Friday’s Suffolk Police and Crime Panel, where he described a child being expelled as “almost the penultimate step before they go off the rails”.

He said: “We do know gangs target excluded pupils.

“I do believe if we give these youngsters the right opportunities that has a very positive effect.

“From what I have seen PRUs [pupil referral units] do exceptional work in very, very difficult circumstances.”

Mr Passmore said many PRUs being full meant in some instances children excluded from mainstream schools ended up just roaming the streets, where they were even more susceptible to being recruited by gangs.

He added: “If we can reduce the number of exclusions that does help because they then adopt almost a feral existence and are targeted by gangs.”

Two dedicated PCSOs are set to work with youngsters at the county’s eight PRUs to help them keep on track and prevent them falling in with gangs.

Suffolk County Council said a series of measures were in place to help prevent children being recruited, including training of school staff to spot the signs of gang involvement, workshops on gangs and county lines drug activity and work by the St Giles Trust to run preventative sessions.

Paul West, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for Ipswich, waste and communities, said: “Children and young people from all walks of life can be targeted by gang related activity.

“It is not an issue that solely targets young people who are educated through pupil referral units, although it’s recognised that some groups of young people who attend these settings are potentially more vulnerable than others.”

He added: “The LA works with school leaders to find alternative approaches to prevent getting to the decision to exclude, exclusion is the last resort.

“The decision to exclude a child from school is not taken lightly; parents have a responsibility to help their child to learn to respect the rules that the school has set for all pupils. With parents support and effective approaches led by school leaders, children will be better supported to have a successful time at school.”

Data published by the Department for Education over the summer showed there were 4,655 exclusions – both temporary and permanent – in the 2016/17 year, up 53% on figures from five years prior.

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