Archive for November, 2022


Exclusion Myths from the Mayor Of London

November 30, 2022

For some time now, the political classes in London have been trying to blame schools for crime. The latest initiative is a summit on education focused on reducing exclusions because they are believed to drive violent crime. The reporting on this has repeated all sorts of myths and misleading statements. A press release on behalf of the mayor reports:

“Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit holds education summit to deliver on plans to tackle school exclusions

Evidence shows children with a history of exclusion or suspension are more likely to be affected by violence

VRU to work in partnership to develop inclusive checklist to support teachers so exclusion is a last resort”

As teachers know, exclusion is already a last resort. And while, of course, violent criminals are more likely to be excluded than the law-abiding majority, there is no good evidence that permanent exclusions drive violent crime in general or knife crime in particular. A number of dubious claims appear in the press release.

“Nearly 90 per cent of young people in detention [presumably this means custody] had been excluded from mainstream education.”

The source is a report by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons in 2017-18. This was based on a survey of young people in custody, and at the time, suspensions were still called “temporary exclusions” or “fixed term exclusions”. It is highly likely the answers included those who had merely been suspended (or possibly even those who had left their school due to long term imprisonment). More recent research from the DfE and the MoJ found only a minority of those in custody had been permanently excluded (see below) although most had been suspended.

“Ofsted found that children excluded from school were twice as likely to carry a knife.”

When you consider that most excluded pupils are boys and boys are more likely to be involved in violent crime, this increased risk actually seems low. It would certainly be weak evidence of a direct connection between exclusion and knife carrying. But it’s also a completely bogus statistic. The source given is an Ofsted publication that contains no such claim. It does feature the claim (from a survey conducted in schools by the Mayor’s Office For Policing And Crime) that “When looking at PRU attendees, 47% (92 of 196) say they know someone who has carried a knife with them, compared with 25% of non PRU attendees (1188 of 4673)”. This is not the same thing, and it would, of course, be dishonest for the Mayor’s Office to attribute results from their own research to Ofsted. Before I let Ofsted off the hook, the claim that “Children who are excluded from school are twice as likely to carry a knife” appeared in a blogpost about their research. However, the lack of any source suggests this was an error, presumably a bad summary of the statistic about PRUs.

“A study published in 2018 by IPPR also found that each excluded child is estimated to cost the state £370,000 each in extra education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs.”

While it is true that this claim was published in a (frankly terrible) report from IPPR, no calculations to support it were ever published. It has no credibility given that there is no evidence that exclusions create any extra costs related to benefits, healthcare and criminal justice. I blogged about this claim previously.

“Keeping young people in education increases their life chances but in order to do that, it’s vital that schools and teachers are supported in working towards education being fully inclusive, fair and available to all.”

Education is compulsory in England. Exclusion should never result in a child leaving education.

The press release goes on to report that the Mayor has claimed that:

“What’s also clear is that there is a direct correlation between school exclusions and serious violence affecting young people.”

I’m not actually sure where this correlation is meant to occur. Despite its youth crime problems, London actually has one of the lowest rates of permanent exclusions.

The possibility of a connection between exclusions and young people committing violent crime or knife crime is not new. While the Mayor Of London failed to provide compelling evidence, or new or accurate statistics, two recent studies have considered it. A 2018 report from the Ministry Of Justice looked at the educational background of those with a childhood conviction for knife possession. While it acknowledged knife offenders had a higher rate of being excluded from school (at that time this term would probably include suspensions) than other offenders, it concluded the following about permanent exclusions.

Knife possession offences rarely followed exclusions

Only a very small proportion committed the knife possession offence shortly after being excluded from school. For those with a permanent exclusion that came later than their knife possession offence, half were excluded within the next 30 days. Although it is not possible to identify from this analysis whether there is an association between exclusions and knife possession offending, the low volumes of knife possession offences following exclusions mean any such association could not be a significant driver of youth knife possession offending overall.”

A more recent report, (also mentioned above) this time from the MoJ and DfE, looked at the educational and social care backgrounds of offenders. It also found that while the permanently excluded were more likely to offend, the first serious violent offence did not usually follow on swiftly from the first exclusion, while exclusions occurring after a violent offence were often within the first month.

It is depressing that these two pieces of recent research, which did not confirm the idea that exclusions drive knife crime or violent crime, are being ignored while discredited, misleading or blatantly erroneous claims are being used to blame schools for London’s crime problem. Exclusions do not cause crime, criminals do. But exclusions do help protect children from those criminals who are in their classrooms. The Mayor of London needs to listen to teachers before the schools of London become dangerous places where the worst behaviour is tolerated in order to keep exclusions down.



The Blog’s Sweet 16th

November 27, 2022

Every year, I seem to start out resolving to write more, and then, as my actual job of teaching becomes more and more exhausting, I tend to lose the habit. This year, after a good start, the blogging became intermittent after Easter and in danger of disappearing until the next new year’s resolution. But it’s worth one more effort to get back in the habit before then.

In particular, I will not leave it any longer to mark the anniversary of my blog which, at one site or another, has now existed for sixteen years.

In my sixteenth year of blogging, I wrote about the following:


The Previous 15 Years Of Blogging






Education Policy


Crime and Education


Exam Results


I also reviewed the following books:

It’s been a bit of a turbulent year for education policy, with what must be a record for changes in education secretary. I had intended to write posts about a number of things that were out of date before I got round to writing them. At one point, an old teaching colleague of mine was schools minister, but he was gone before I had written about him. Things seem a bit more stable now, so hopefully this will give teachers a bit more time and space to respond to developments that affect them.

Thanks to Gwen for all her help and support with the blog. Thanks to everyone who reads, responds and shares blogposts.

Hopefully it won’t be long before I post again.

%d bloggers like this: