Are campaigners against exclusions willing to tolerate sexual assault in schools?

October 26, 2020

Every so often I get told that nobody wants to ban all exclusions from schools. Therefore, I’m told, extreme examples like sexual assault are not relevant to the debate on permanent exclusion. Nobody would tolerate sexual assault, or think that the interests of the perpetrators of sexual assault are more important than the victims. The existence of the campaigning group “No More Exclusions” campaigning for no more exclusions was not sufficient evidence that these extreme views exist.

Today, I was directed to evidence of just how extreme this group is. On their webpage (no link as it seems to have been suspended since I accessed it) I read their Frequently Asked Questions document. In it they clearly state their aims:

No More Exclusions is an abolitionist movement. That means we want to stop exclusions altogether – abolish the whole process of exclusion.

Incredibly, instead of just ignoring the real danger some young people present to their peers, they actually address the question “What about sexual abuse and violence in schools?”. In a section that begins with the words “Sexual violence is a serious issue. However…” they explain that they don’t think young sex offenders should be punished. This might be concerning enough, but the explanation of their alternative to exclusion is actually staggering. Adult authority over children turns out to be the true culprit in sexual assault and the only culprit they would seek to confront.

Abuse is about power, and it is also important to address abuse by adults towards young people in schools and other institutions. As children we are taught just to accept the authority of adults, and this can lead us to learn to ignore our own sense of discomfort.

By creating a culture of consent, not just among students but also between students to staff, we both allow young people to have their agency and also make them less likely to want to transgress someone’s else’s boundaries, encouraging people to respect each other and hold themselves to account. By contrast, in environments in which their consent is constantly violated, young people might wonder: “Why should I care about someone else’s boundaries if mine are always being transgressed?”

That, is their answer to sexual assault in schools: end adult authority over children, and hope it makes young sex offenders respect their victims’ boundaries. Speaking of victims, incredibly there is also a section answering the question: “What about the Victims?” While the answer speaks of support for victims, it then tries the most outrageous argument yet.

Another important question to consider is who we count as a victim. So often when we talk about victims and perpetrators, we focus only on situations involving interpersonal violence, ignoring people who are harmed by state and structural violence – for example people experiencing the everyday violence and material deprivation caused by economic inequality and racism. The education system should recognise these forms of harm and ensure that those experiencing it are also supported.

Exclusion is a humiliating experience; it is the violent removal of a child from the classroom. We need to challenge and remove violence from our classrooms, not respond violently by excluding children, even those who have acted violently. No teacher should consider a child to be unteachable. Instead we need a model where the victim of violence can experience justice, for example by explaining their feelings so that the perpetrator can understand the harm they have caused. The perpetrator should also be allowed to explain what made them angry and violent and be given room to reflect on the way they acted.

If you are reacting to this like I have, with shock, then remember the No More Exclusions campaign has been given plenty of publicity and airtime. It seems to have particularly strong links with some activists in the NEU. While teachers have largely remained reluctant to speak out on the issue of exclusions, for fear that their schools will be accused of not being inclusive, campaigners against exclusion have dominated the debate without anyone much holding them to account for their extreme views and the danger they would put children in.

Another No More Exclusions document, is still available here. On page 10 it lists people and organisations they claim as supporters. Tempting though it is, I’ve decided not to include that list here, just in case it’s not accurate. But I do encourage you to look at that page and see that this is apparently not a fringe organisation, this is the mainstream of educational campaigning, and it’s dangerously irresponsible.




  1. A female teacher was raped in her classroom in 2004. The rapist was a pupil at the school who had been linked to an earlier sexual assault on a cleaner.
    The teacher was new to the school and had not been told about the previous incident. She later said if she had known she would not have worked alone in the classroom. The attack was so brutal she thought she was going to be killed and never taught again.
    The boy who attacked her had a history of aggressive behaviour and in court it was suggested the school should have excluded him long before he carried out the attack.
    But they didn’t.
    They didn’t even warn the teacher that there was a potentially dangerous pupil in the school.
    The school said it was “a highly unusual case which could not have been foreseen by the school – neither was this incident the fault of the school.”
    A blanket ruling of No Exclusions allows incidents such as this to occur.

  2. The pupil who raped a teacher in 2004 had been linked to two previous sexual assaults, one in the same school and one in a park, and at the time of the attack was on bail for possession of a knife.

    That’s the reality of No Exclusions.


  3. “a highly unusual case which could not have been foreseen by the school – neither was this incident the fault of the school.”…. ie similar to the line taken by churches who are now being hauled over the coals. Sexual attack by ANYONE is unacceptable.

  4. Some of the stated views of the ‘abolitionists” are so staggeringly stupid i have no reply. Also i know from 1st hand experience that any reply is just wasted breath and or typing to them as they are like true fundamentalists in that they have all of the answers and they brook no challenge to those answers.

  5. Instead we need a model where the victim of violence can experience justice, for example by explaining their feelings so that the perpetrator can understand the harm they have caused.

    That’s all very well if the perpetrator didn’t realise the harm the were causing, but how is this supposed to work with the sort of sadistic little sh*t who enjoys making people feel upset? Telling the smirking arsehole who gets off on your pain how much pain they’ve caused you isn’t “justice”, it’s just compounding the abuse.

  6. Why am I not surprised that Gary Younge is in on this?

  7. […] Are campaigners against exclusions willing to tolerate sexual assault in schools? […]

  8. […] their victims. More accurate information about that group and their appalling views can be found here (from me) or here (from the TES). While I’m very disappointed at the Guardian for this, in […]

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