Children who have been excluded from school may be at ‘serious risk’ of being involved in knife crime and youth violence, according to Barnardo’s and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime.
A Freedom of Information request by the children’s charity found that of those that responded, one in three of local authorities in England had no vacant places in Pupil Referral Units.
A PRU offers individual help to students with challenging behaviour.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “Preventing serious youth violence is “everyone’s business” – and schools along with Police, charities and others have a key role to play.
“Exclusion must be a last resort, and all children must have access to high quality full-time education, that gives them the best possible chance of achieving good grades, and staying safe from harm.
“We know children excluded from mainstream schools are at serious risk of being groomed and exploited by criminal gangs.
“We urge the Government to help schools to reduce the number of children who are excluded, and improve the quality of Alternative Provision, so vulnerable young people get the help they need to achieve a positive future.”
'This is heartbreaking'
A poll by YouGov also found the majority of parents are concerned about the increase in knife crime in Britain.
72% of parents think that excluded children are more at risk of being involved in knife crime and serious youth violence.
Department of Education figures show a 56% rise in exclusions since 2014, going from 4,950 occasions in 2013-14 to 7,720 in 2016-17.
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Almost one in five spaces in alternative provision are also rated inadequate or requires improvement by Ofsted.
An excluded child in the North East is around eight times more likely to attend an ‘inadequate’ provision than the national average.
Sarah Jones, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime said: “Knife crime is at the highest level on record, this is a public health crisis and our schools are on the frontline.
“Exclusions are rising and in many cases there is literally nowhere for those children to go. This is heartbreaking. Schools need resources to support pupils through difficult periods. Too many children are being socially excluded and marked as failures, with tragic consequences.
“Professionals talk about the ‘PRU to prison pipeline’. The system is failing these young people."