School exclusions create prisoners, not reformed pupils

With ever more social problems manifesting in the classroom, and support staff and services being axed, draconian methods of ‘behaviour management’ are on the rise.

The education system in this country is failing our children. The increasing privatisation that starves schools of resources and teachers is widening the gulf between the most privileged in society and the poorest. These cuts most severely affect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, namely the 4 million children living in poverty, but this crisis is rapidly engulfing all working-class children.

A group of students from south London called Education Not Exclusion covered advertisements on the tube this summer with a mock tube map, stopping at ‘Detention’, ‘Isolation’, ‘Exclusion’ and ‘Prison’, showing the link between school punishments and criminality.

Forty students every day are permanently excluded from school in England, with only 1 percent of these excluded pupils receiving any qualifications at GCSE level. (Headteachers blame funding cuts as schools expel 40 pupils each day by Eleanor Busby, The Independent, 19 July 2018)

Furthermore, The Guardian informs us: “Figures published by the Department for Education showed that 11,400 primary-age pupils received temporary suspensions and 240 received permanent exclusions for physically assaulting adults in 2013-14, compared with 9,000 temporary and 210 permanent suspensions the previous year.” (English schools see first rise in exclusions in eight years by Richard Adams, 30 July 2015)

Since then matters have worsened: a shocking 40,000 children under 7 years of age were excluded from school in England in the year 2015/16. Who in their right mind would argue that exclusion is appropriate for infants? Yet this is clearly the policy in our schools. (Not wanted in class: the growing exclusions from primary school by Sally Williams, The Telegraph, 4 October 2018)

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Education Union, explained: “Members tell us that as the curriculum gets narrower and children’s experience of school is ever-more focused on preparation for tests and exams, more students are becoming disengaged from school, which in turn leads to problems with behaviour and mental health problems.

“Cuts to school and local authority budgets have led to pastoral and mental health support services being scaled back or axed. Some schools have had to reduce the number of teaching assistants employed. This clearly has an impact on the help schools can give to individual pupils as and when the need arises.” (Number of children expelled from English schools hits 35 a day by Sally Weale and Pamela Duncan, Guardian, 20 July 2017)

While resources for working-class children are constantly axed, the government continues to push its programme of grammar school construction and academy conversion – in other words, focusing on the creation of elitist institutions. A study by the Centre for Economic Performance, based at the London School of Economics, concluded: “Academy schools in England … show higher rates of pupil permanent exclusion than otherwise comparable non-academy schools.”

So as state-provided education is slowly but surely stolen away from children by underhand privatisation, more and more working-class children will be refused the right to an education at all, and with it any chance of a productive and fulfilling life. These cuts disproportionately affect the already vulnerable and excluded in our society.

There is an indisputable relationship between lack of education and criminality. As the vicious privatisation of our education continues (on average, a thousand academies have been created every year since 2014), the national crime rate has skyrocketed, with 100,000 more crimes being reported each month in 2018 compared to 2014.

In London alone, murder rates have risen by 47 percent since 2013, while we are increasingly being bombarded with stories about the gang culture of the cities spreading to the relatively better-off shires, and of children as young as 11 being arrested for drug dealing.

It is increasingly urgent that we reverse this privatisation before a decent education becomes the sole preserve of a privileged few.