Young people ‘disillusioned’ with school system, Yorkshire headteacher warns

The head of Ofsted has said underlying problems may be leading to violence, rather than a decision to exclude young people from school
The head of Ofsted has said underlying problems may be leading to violence, rather than a decision to exclude young people from school

A headteacher in West Yorkshire has dismissed suggestions that knife crime is linked to exclusions as schools seek to secure better exam results.

Three of Yorkshire’s four crime commissioners co-signed a letter to the Prime Minister this week warning of a “broken” system, with Ofsted head Amanda Spielman yesterday arguing against accusations.

Police have called for a reverse in the cuts to the number of officers under austerity measures, but Chancellor Philip Hammond on Thursday told forces to refocus their existing resources. Now, the principal of Minsthorpe Community College in South Elmsall has warned that the Government’s “mess” in the education system is entirely of its own making.

“As ever, the Government focus is on the symptoms - not the cause,” Ray Henshaw said.

“No wonder, because their appalling interventions in education over the past six years are the cause of the current malaise.”

A focus on high-stakes testing and an out-of-touch curriculum are impacting upon a generation of young people who are becoming disengaged, he warns.

“The more disengaged these students become the more badly behaved they become and that is the vicious circle that schools are now trapped in.”

Crime Commissioners in West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Humberside, backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, were among those to issue a warning.

Many of the individuals committing violent offences have been excluded from school, they said, calling for an end to unofficial “off-rolling” which sees difficult pupils removed from school rolls to improve results. Figures show that permanent exclusions in England increased by 56 per cent between 2013-14 and 2016-17.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said there are times when exclusions are necessary: “The causes and not just the symptoms need to be urgently looked at to ensure that it is tackled effectively.”

Ofsted head Amanda Spielman has said that it is the problems which lead to a pupil’s expulsion - rather than the decision to exclude them from school - which is more likely to explain later violence.

“I don’t believe that exclusions are normally likely to be the root cause,” Ms Spielman has said. “What seems more likely is that they are symptoms of the same underlying problems. Most are the culmination of a long series of behaviour problems where schools have put great effort into helping children overcome their problems.”

While expulsions have risen, she said, they are still below where they were a decade or 15 years ago.