London schools lack ‘ability and resources’ to tackle knife crime – Ofsted

Schools in London don’t receive enough support to tackle knife crime, Ofsted has warned.

New research from the watchdog found schools lack the “ability or the resources to counter the complex societal problems behind the rise in knife crime”.

Some schools shy away from using searches or specific education programmes because they are worried about sending the ‘wrong message’ to parents

It follows calls from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and seven police and crime commissioners for a shake-up of exclusions in response to rising knife crime rates, and claims the two issues are linked.

Ofsted’s study found schools have “very different ways” of dealing with knives and teaching children about risks and “inconsistent” approaches to police involvement, and called for better guidance on what works and “greater clarity” on when police should be involved.

However, the report also found “no evidence” to suggest exclusions are the root cause of the surge in knife violence, and that children who carry knives “almost invariably have complex problems that begin long before they are excluded”.

Ofsted carried out research in 29 schools, colleges and pupil referral units in London, including focus groups with parents and children.

The research project has prompted 11 recommendations, including calls for schools to be “fully involved” in local community safety partnerships and for institutions to ensure their exclusion policy “reflects the practice set out in the DfE’s statutory guidance”.

Ofsted has also warned of a lack of clarity on managed moves – where pupils move school with the agreement of their parents, rather than through exclusion – and called on the DfE to collect data on such moves as it does currently on exclusions.

Schools and colleges “should share full information with one another when pupils and learners move schools”, and leaders should “consider how their personal, social, health and economic education (PHSE) curriculum reflects local safeguarding issues and trends, including knife crime”.

The watchdog also makes a series of recommendations for other agencies. For example, it said the Metropolitan Police needs to establish a “clear and consistent protocol and memorandums of understanding with schools that ensure that it and schools routinely share information about children for the purposes of safeguarding”.

And pan-London safeguarding partners should “provide challenge to schools and colleges and, when necessary, drive improvement in how well schools and colleges share information with others to promote children’s safety when those children move schools or begin further education”.

However, Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, warned of a “harmful narrative” that exclusions “must cause children to join gangs or carry knives” because excluded pupils end up in “very poor-quality” alternative provision.

“In fact, over 80 per cent of state-funded registered AP and PRUs are rated good or outstanding by my inspectors and, of those pupils not on a state school roll at age 16, few get there directly via exclusion from a mainstream school,” said Spielman, in commentary released alongside today’s research.

“What’s much more concerning is off-rolling or managed moves to unregistered or illegal AP or to no education, employment or training at all. We do not know whether children in these settings are safe, let alone being educated.”

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