School exclusions: Hackney academies ‘not engaging’ in safeguarding of students at risk of gang crime

The town hall's Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission heard from gangs experts. Picture: Ken Mears

The town hall's Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission heard from gangs experts. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Gangs experts in Hackney say academies are not engaging enough with troubled kids.

A report into the work of the borough’s trailblazing Integrated Gangs Unit (IGU) to tackle youth violence found safeguarding interventions for students deemed at risk were met with “mixed responses” by schools.

At an evidence session conducted by the town hall’s Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission earlier this year, Steve Gowen of the IGU said there was sometimes a lack of acknowledgement of there being a gang issue despite – for example – 40 young people waiting outside a school for someone at the end of a day. He said there was “greatest concern” around the attitudes of academies.

Last week the Gazette revealed home schooling figures in Hackney had risen by 238pc, raising fears academies were “washing their hands” of difficult children in an illegal practice known as “off-rolling”.

Damion Roberts, of the St Giles Trust’s SOS Project, added that often, knife crime offences involving young people took place during school time but away from the school because the child had been excluded due to “over-punitive polices”.

Of 51 school exclusions highlighted by the IGU, 36 of the students had gang connections. More than half of the excluded kids were black boys and more than 80 per cent had special educational needs.

The IGU and Hackney Learning Trust is now carrying out research into exclusions analysing data from 2017/18. It has already established that exclusions and poverty were found to be key risk indicators for gang involvement.

Kate Meyler, young people’s advocate from charity Safer London, said kids can be excluded for something that happens outside of school, where the student had been deemed to have brought the school into disrepute.

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The living in Hackney scrutiny commission suggested part of the work should look at whether or not the kids formed gang connections before or after their exclusion.

The Hackney Learning Trust is now revising its policies around exclusion with a greater focus on keeping kids in school.