Sadiq Khan has joined with police and crime commissioners (PCCs) from other areas to call for the removal of fewer children from schools as part of a strategy to reduce violent youth crime.
The London Mayor, in his capacity as PCC for the capital, along with counterparts for the West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Humberside, Northumbria, West Yorkshire and South Wales have asked Prime Minister Theresa May to outlaw the practice of “off-rolling”, which sees difficult pupils taken out of schooling without being formally excluded.
City Hall cites “growing evidence” that the most vulnerable children are more likely to be off-rolled or excluded and research indicating that those who fall out of mainstream education are at “significantly greater risk of becoming involved in or affected by serious youth violence”.
The Mayor and his fellow PCCs say they want local authorities to be quickly given “powers and responsibilities over all school exclusions.” He added: “Time and again we are hearing how the fragmentation of the education system and the breaking of the link between schools and local authorities has led to a lack of accountability, coordination and action.” They see this a way of combatting “significant variation by school as to what will result in exclusion”.
Education watchdog Ofsted has defined off-rolling as: “The practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil.” Ofsted calls this a form of “gaming” the school performance assessment system, enabling students unlikely to secure good exam results and affect league tables to be taken out of the picture. It has said that the issue is particularly marked in the capital.
City Hall says a report by the Children’s Commissioner to the Mayor’s recently-formed Violence Reduction Unit, set up in order to address the roots of the problem more effectively, underlined that more needs to be done to keep children in mainstream education, with those who fall out of it more likely to be disadvantaged and vulnerable.