One in three local authorities in England have nowhere for excluded children to go - leaving them vulnerable to violence and criminal exploitation, new research finds.
Alternative provision for excluded children is at “breaking point” and pupils who are excluded may be at serious risk of becoming involved in knife crime, charity Barnardo’s and MPs have warned.
A third of English local authorities have no spaces left for excluded children in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), according to new data obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) act.
And there is a postcode lottery around the quality of education that excluded pupils receive as almost a fifth of alternative providers are rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement” by Ofsted.
The research, which was carried out with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime, highlights a 56 per cent rise in exclusions in England since 2014.
A YouGov poll also found that nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of parents with children under 18 think excluded students are more at risk of being involved in knife crime and serious youth violence.
Sarah Jones, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime and MP for Croydon Central, said: “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.”
Javed Khan, Barnardo's chief executive, said: "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.”
A government spokesperson said: “We want every child to receive an education that fosters ambition and builds confidence in their abilities so they can have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
"Permanently excluding a child from mainstream school should only ever be a last resort, and we support teachers in making these difficult decisions where they are justified.
“While it is not clear what role exclusions plays in crime, it is vital that young people who are excluded from school still engage with high-quality education. But we need to be just as ambitious for pupils in alternative provision as we are for those in mainstream schools.
“That’s why, alongside the review of exclusions led by Edward Timpson, we are transforming alternative provision to improve outcomes for these children which helps them to flourish, backed by our £4m innovation fund that has created nine new projects around the country.”
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