CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

‘Competition between schools’ helps fuel pupil exclusion rate

Director of City Hall violence unit wants to see fewer children being removed

03 October, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Lib Peck speaking in Kentish Town

THE director of a unit set up by City Hall to use a public health approach to tackle violence crime has said she would “most definitely” like to see school exclusion rates lowered.

Lib Peck said the school system being “fragmented” was one of the factors behind a rise in exclusions in London.

She told the New Journal: “You don’t any longer have the local education authority. There is a lot, therefore, of competition between schools and a lot of people will not want to see certain individuals in schools.”

She added: “There’s a kind of pressure on the schools to perform, pressure on schools to look their best, I suppose, for potential parents, so there’s something about that inspection regime.”

Ms Peck quit her job as leader of Lambeth Council after being hired by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to the £117,000-a-year role heading his Violence Reduction Unit.

Several experts have warned in recent months about a potential link between excluding children at a young age and violent crime.

Camden Council has been urged by Labour backbenchers to set up an internal investigation into the widespread use of exclusions, although Town Hall chiefs have so far resisted, insisting the numbers of children being removed from schools is expected to fall soon.

Ms Peck said: “I think there’s also sometimes the fact that lots of school budgets have been cut and there’s less resources, there’s less support workers and when you align that with less mental health support generally, some of the kids that really need that aren’t getting it, That’s probably I would have thought a factor.”

Ms Peck was speaking after an event at the Greenwood Centre in Kentish Town last month to mark a year since the Camden’s own Youth Safety Taskforce reported back on their findings.

It had been set up following murders of teenagers and young men in Camden as an attempt to analyse what was driving a rise in violence – and with the aim of finding new ways to prevent further attacks.

The New Journal has run a series of stories on school exclusions, with the most recent figures showing nearly 700 children were excluded from the borough’s schools in a year.

The Town Hall has pledged to focus on why so many were being removed.

Asked if she would like to see exclusions decline, Ms Peck said “most definitely” but added: “I don’t think you can do it by saying ‘stop excluding kids’ because it’s hard enough being a teacher and complex enough that you need to think about it in a different way.”

Her unit mirrors a similar approach used in Glasgow to tackle serious violence as a disease, rather than just using enforcement.

The Youth Safety Taskforce identified a gap in support or provision for 18 to 25-year-olds, despite many of those being affected by youth violence being over 18s.

Ms Peck said: “I think it’s absolutely critical we look at young people up to the age of 25 and that we put services around the individual rather than this arbitrary age block.”

She added: “If you start taking a slightly different philosophy and different approach towards it then I genuinely think that’s how you start turning it.”

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