Tashaûn Aird's death serves 'sobering example' on negative impacts of exclusion

Tasha�n Aird had been stabbed nine times according to the post-mortem examination. Picture: Met Poli

A serious case review found that Tashaûn Aird's permanent exclusion from school exposed him " to a new more challenging environment" - Credit: met

The devastating repercussions of school exclusion in Hackney was revealed by pupils who said they were cut off from friends and learning.

One excluded student told Hackney’s children and young people’s scrutiny commission: “I was crying as I was so upset.

"I was upset at not being able to see my friends no more, not being in contact with them, not being able to learn anything.’”

The commission found rates of permanent and fixed exclusion from Hackney secondary schools remained consistently above both national and regional averages between 2010-2019.

The Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that exclusion can cost £370,000 throughout the life of an excluded child who may need extra help with education, training, unemployment, healthcare and the costs of criminal justice .

Scrutiny commission chair Cllr Sophie Conway said: “The outcomes for children who are excluded are significantly worse than their peers who remain in mainstream education.”

Poor outcomes, she warned, include low educational attainment, entering the criminal justice system and being imprisoned as adults. 

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She added: “Some children are significantly more likely to be excluded from school – boys, children from black and mixed heritage backgrounds, children from travelling backgrounds, children with special educational needs, children in receipt of free school meals, children from single parent families and looked-after children.”

She highlighted the impact of exclusion on 15-year-old Tashaun Aird, who died after he was stabbed in May 2019.

A serious case review (SCR) found his permanent exclusion exposed him “to a new more challenging environment”.

Cllr Conway said Aird's death "serves as a sobering example of how permanent exclusion from school can increase a child’s risk of being victim of crime and criminal exploitation – and the potentially devastating consequences of this". 

The scrutiny commission’s report found that Black Caribbean children were disproportionately more likely to be excluded from school in Hackney – making up 38 per cent of permanent exclusions in 2017-18, despite only making up 10 per cent of the school population.

Overall in Hackney, boys are more likely than girls to be excluded – which is the same picture nationally.

However permanent and fixed term exclusions peak at 13 years old – earlier than the national and regional average of 14.

The report said the number of permanent exclusions are “relatively low”.

The most common reason for permanent exclusion in 2017-18 was persistent disruptive behaviour – in 31 per cent of the cases.

During the same time 63 per cent of excluded children had a diagnosed SEND and 60pc were assessed to have social, emotional and mental health needs.

Cllr Bramble said the council is developing a new SEND strategy to support children in mainstream schools and provide “significantly more” specialist school places.”

The report also highlighted that 36pc of children permanently excluded in 2017-18 were known to the Integrated Gangs Unit (IGU) but the council said it was not clear from the data whether this contributed to the exclusion, or followed it.

The council’s IGU works to help young people involved in gang violence or those on the periphery of gangs through a variety measures. 

Pupils aged 13 to 17 spoke to the commission and called for more support.

Pupils said they can be isolated for a range of issues, “the wrong hair colour",  jewellery and shoe wear. 

One pupil said: “Sometimes some institutions are so hellbent on their rules and they squeeze you for any reason.”

Hackney’s cabinet member for education Anntoinette Bramble said: “Some of our most vulnerable children have a very difficult journey around the time of or after an exclusion. We need to do better.”

She acknowledged that the council did not always ensure there was the right support if pupils are excluded, including helping them get back into mainstream education if possible.

Cllr Bramble said the council opened a new site for the pupil referral unit, New Regent’s College, earlier this year.  

Cllr Bramble said: “It and is an emerging example of how well pupils can do when given the dedicated support.”

The unit has a “no need to exclude policy” which emphasises that permanent exclusion should only be taken as a last resort”.