Schools must consider risk of criminal exploitation before excluding children, charities say
A group of charities has written to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to call for factors such as risk of child criminal exploitation (CCE) to be considered before excluding vulnerable children.
A coalition of 12 children’s charities is demanding better protection against child criminal exploitation for vulnerable children facing exclusion from school.
The group – including NSPCC, The Children’s Society, and Barnardo’s – have sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, calling for the Statutory Guidance on Exclusions and Guidance on Behaviour to better protect vulnerable children facing school exclusion from child criminal exploitation (CCE).
They say that their work with vulnerable children shows that exclusion from school can often make them more exposed to CCE. Statistics show a clear connection between exclusion from school and entry into the youth justice system – more than 8 out of 10 children in custody have been excluded, according to the latest HM Chief Inspector of Prisons annual report.
The charities, however, say that the current draft guidance for schools fails to include sufficient safeguards to protect these vulnerable children.
“When someone gets kicked out of school [they are] pushed right into the groomers' hands,” said Stefan, a client and campaigner for Just for Kids Law, the charity leading the campaign. “There's people out there looking to make a fast buck off someone's child. If you're not in school, what else are you doing? You're going to be on the street with other people…that was my situation.”
“When you push a child outside of school straight away someone's going to find him. The groomer is going to buy them new trainers and other [gifts]. But it all comes at a price. They buy you things, then you owe them.”
The charities say criminal gangs and exploiters will often engineer a child’s exclusion to ‘entrench’ their exploitation. This might include coercing victims to carry drugs or weapons into school which will likely result in an exclusion, which increases the child’s risk of exploitation.
Being excluded often leaves children feeling rejected and unwanted by the education system, and exploiters then prey on these feelings and on the reluctance of those children to seek support from the professionals around them.
A child who commits an offence because they are a victim of exploitation is able to have those circumstances recognised as part of their defence in the criminal courts, but the charities are calling for equivalent protection for children who face exclusion from school in the same circumstances.
They say that the Statutory Exclusions Guidance and Behaviour Guidance should be changed to include better information for teachers on how to spot the warning signs and risk factors for CCE, and that both headteachers and governing bodies need to consider whether a child at risk of exclusion may be showing risk factors for exploitation as part of their decision to exclude.
Louise King, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Just for Kids Law said: “It’s crucial that, when headteachers are faced with the decision about whether to exclude a child, they take into consideration what might be happening in that child’s life, including the possibility that their behaviour is a result of child criminal exploitation.
“Our suggested changes to Department for Education guidance will help ensure that schools meet their safeguarding duties and break the cycle of exploitation by allowing a vulnerable child to stay in school.”
The group also makes reference to recent events regarding the Safeguarding Review of ‘Child Q’ expressing concern that Government guidance on ‘Searching, screening and confiscation’ could be strengthened by including much stronger reference to the primary need to safeguard children.
“We believe that a focus on safeguarding is equally important in guidance to schools on exclusions and behaviour.”
Most popular articles today