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Working with educational establishments and providers across Merseyside, the VRP aims to reduce serious violence among children and young people attending schools and colleges.

The VRP launched its ‘Additional Guidance When Considering Permanent Exclusion’ to head teachers and schools in Merseyside, September, 2020.

"By highlighting the principles, consequences and identifying local-level support, the VRP sees this guidance as a valuable tool to assist schools when undertaking the difficult job of considering exclusion sanctions," says Roger Thompson, Merseyside VRP’s education lead and author of the guidance.

"Whilst permanent exclusion is rightfully at the disposal of every head teacher, the long-term consequences for the 200 Merseyside children annually affected is immense, not least because of the increased links to criminality … Additionally, as schools deliver on their recovery plans in response to COVID-19, the risk of a further rise in exclusions is a regularly-voiced concern expressed by educational experts."

Currently, the loss of routine, structure, social interaction and freedoms for children during these difficult months may present as challenging behaviours in school. Previous pandemics have shown that children who experienced quarantine or social isolation were more likely to require mental health interventions. In today’s situation, we also have potential exposure to other forms of adversity and trauma, so the likelihood for disruptive behaviour may well rise.

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Education Continued

Highlights from the guidance include considerations about:

• Is disruptive behaviour an indication of unmet and undiagnosed needs, such as trauma, mental health or family difficulties? Schools need to identify causal factors and intervene early to reduce the need for punitive action.

• In relation to knife crime, schools should work in partnership to both safeguard perpetrators and victims – a child may be both at the same time. Possession of knife alone should not be grounds for permanent exclusion and needs to be considered sensitively.

• Without school in their lives, children have fewer protective factors (eg trusted adults) so they are at risk of disengaging from education altogether. If they’re not found a good educational alternative this makes them vulnerable to criminality.

• Everyone working in education trained to understand vulnerability, trauma, stigmatisation and the effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). A trauma-informed school will ask: What has happened to a person when they are not handling challenging situations well? Rather than: What is wrong with them?

• Without time spent in schools, the extra free time for a vulnerable child generates opportunities for criminals to exploit them. Drug gangs may groom them to be sent to other counties to sell drugs, traffic drugs or weapons.

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Our top priorities of work in the following year are to:

  • Develop additional exclusion guidance for schools.
  • Prototype the ‘Mentors in Violence Prevention’ programme across a selection of Merseyside schools.
  • Develop guidance for schools when commissioning violence reduction activities.
  • Fund restorative practice approaches for when a young person is at risk of permanent exclusion.

Check out VRP's educational pocket guide about child criminal exploitation here.

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