School Exclusions Have Negative Impact On Students Article by Barrie Laslett
All across the country young people are being excluded from mainstream schools and consigned to the scrap heap of education in Pupil Referral Units (PRU’s)
When a child is referred to these units it diminishes their life chances on paper. Data suggests those in a PRU are destined to either be a victim or perpetrator of knife crime. There are also strong links between PRU’s and gangs and county lines operations.
The circumstances that lead to young people being referred to a PRU vary immensely.
While in theory the PRU should be a last resort, a measure taken once all other avenues have been exhausted. Sadly in practice this is not always the case.
To us working in the charity sector it seems like schools are burying their heads in the sand – taking the easy option by excluding troublesome children from a healthy learning environment and that is having a huge knock on effect on society.
At The Wickers charity, we aim to reduce gang and knife related crime by supporting young people aged 8 – 18 with learning opportunities and positive role models.
From the sample of young people we work and engage with on a weekly basis, there are worrying trends to suggest that PRU are a contributing factor to the rise in knife crime.
Children with behavioural disorders are disproportionately being referred, and overzealous decisions are rashly made off the back of specific incidents.
For example a young person is being bullied, and is threatened with violence, that young person takes a knife to school for protection. Is a referral to the PRU the best course of action? Surely there were other courses of action that would have been more effective? Or was the incident used as an excuse to move a young person with ADHD out of mainstream school?
We at The Wickers fully appreciate the pressure schools are under, and the negative impact that disruptive students can have on a class, we also recognise the responsibility is not solely with the school and teachers, and no one should expect them to have all the answers. Parents and carers have a big role to play, but again they do not have all the answers. There are organisations like ours, that are out there who can provide support.
We have seen the power of mentoring, and seen how engaged young people become when they have a positive role model they can relate to. We can also help to repair and build the relationships between the schools, parents and carers, by acting as an impartial mediator.
At The Wickers we really try to understand the root cause of the issue and the needs of the young people.
This takes time, as you need to build a relationship, gain trust and get the young person engaged. The engagement can happen through a range of activities such as music and sport. Once the child is engaged you then have a better chance of understanding the root cause of their behaviour, which enables you to provide better support.
There is a bigger question or debate, are PRUs in their current format the right alternative provision? I think we all know the answer to that…..