School exclusion rate in Hackney is worst in inner London

Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy, Hackney Pic: Paul the Archivist

School exclusions in Hackney are the highest in inner London and among the highest in the country, according to a new report.

Hackney’s permanent exclusion rate now stands at 0.13 per cent of the school population, higher than all its neighbouring boroughs.

The exclusions have a disproportionate impact on children from Black Caribbean communities, children with special needs and disabilities, and children from traveler communities, said the report. Research across England and other London boroughs also showed similar trends. Children from a single parent household or who received free school meals were at higher risk for exclusion.

Whilst Hackney’s exclusion rate is high, things seem to be improving across other Eastlondonlines boroughs. Tower Hamlets, currently has the lowest of all east London boroughs, standing at 0.01, according to the 2018-2019 data. Lewisham, which reported the third highest rate of exclusions in England in 2015-2016, has reduced it to approximately 0.06. Separate research done by the Croydon Observatory last year shows that the rate of permanent exclusions has also fallen to 0.09.

The report, which was conducted by the Children and Young People Scrutiny Commission, includes local consultations with young people who have been excluded as well as their families. The commission also visited the borough’s pupil referral unit, New Regent’s College, and other alternative provision providers in Hackney. 

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Education, told a council meeting earlier this month that Hackney currently has some of the best schools in the country, but needs to work on lowering its exclusion rate.

She said: “It does not send the right message about our schools that we’re some of the best educators, but we’re not doing as well when it comes to holding our children and young people and supporting them.”

The latest rate of permanent exclusions in Hackney is “almost twice that of the inner London average,” according to the report.  

Bramble said that the new findings on the outcome of exclusions can’t be discussed without centering the issue of race-based disproportionality. But the trends aren’t new, as previous reports have demonstrated high levels of disproportionality to be a main issue in exclusions.

She said: “We have to be comfortable being uncomfortable talking about race… As a borough that has passed anti-racist motion, and we’ve got high levels of disproportionality.”

Almost 40 per cent of exclusions impact children from Black Caribbean communities, even though they only make up 10 per cent of the school’s population. Children from Black African backgrounds make up 23 per cent of exclusions.

“This is not about berating schools; this is about integrating data…. And this data is telling us there’s something wrong when it comes to our black children in our schools”, Bramble said.

Secondary schools are more susceptible to enforcing exclusions than primary schools, as data shows that 86 per cent of permanent exclusions happened in secondary school settings.

Disruptive behavior was indicated as the top reason for permanent exclusions. However, most young people in the report said they felt excluded from their community without much warning.

Councillor Caroline Selman said: “What was overwhelmingly obvious was that almost without exception, every single one of the young people we spoke to expressed their shock, surprise, confusion, and at the moment of permanent exclusion, they genuinely did not know they were at risk of this happening.”

Parents in the report expressed similar feelings, one said in the report: “My son has had a number of fixed term exclusions before being excluded… I didn’t understand what any of this meant and what I needed to do and how I should approach it”.  

Selman said that many parents the commission spoke to were unsure of their next steps and how to best support their children. Some even had to leave their jobs. One parent said: “I was a single parent at the time working full time, but I still had to reduce my hours all the time to help support my son and deal with the exclusion.”

Selman said that there should be a sense of collective responsibility to not let these children down. She said: “If a child is excluded from one setting, they still exist somewhere, and that sense of collective responsibility, if not a legal requirement, is certainly a moral one.”

The commission recommended “preventative interventions” early in the process to avoid exclusions. They also suggested more access to guidance for families with children at the risk of exclusions and ones already excluded. Exclusion rates in the borough and their demographics should also receive more public oversight.  

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