Truancy, not exclusion, is a key reason for rising knife crime, says the Education Secretary, as he admitted efforts to reduce the number of pupils’ persistently absent from school have stalled. The Telegraph reports.
Damian Hinds challenged those such as London mayor Sadiq Khan who have claimed the rise in exclusions is behind the surge in knife attacks, saying the reality was more complex.
“A much bigger concern is the number of young people who are ‘persistently absent’ from school,” said Mr Hinds, citing research that showed four-fifths of young knife crime offenders had regularly truanted in one of the five years prior to the offence.
Around one in 10 children are persistently absent while overall unauthorised absence has increased from 1% in 2006 to 1.3% in 2016/17, according to official datas. The same trends are expected to be confirmed by figures today
“Children may be persistently absent from school for a number of reasons – like long term illness – but some of them are just skipping school. They may be disillusioned, disengaged or ultimately coming from a home where them going to school is not the top of the priority list.
“It is these children – children from homes where parents have experienced one of the trio of mental health problems, domestic violence and substance abuse – that are most at risk of harm or criminal exploitation.”
“Schools can help steer vulnerable children but clearly children need to be in school for this to work. The disadvantage attainment gap has narrowed since 2010, but the key initiatives – everything from our focus on phonics to the Pupil Premium – will only work if that child is in school.
Mr Hinds rejected calls to stop schools from excluding children, noting that four in five knife attacks were by children aged 18 or over and that only 3% were committed by someone permanently excluded from school in the previous year.
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