Is Pupil Exclusion Increasing Violence in Young People?
Classroom violence has been increasing year on year, leading to a threat to teacher safety. Various theories have been hypothesised, from budget cuts to the removal of power from the staff, leaving them unable to provide boundaries and consequences. However, the ability to expel children still exists, and this has been one of the only courses of action available to the desperate teacher. In 2016 schools across the UK excluded over 380,000 children for various offences that were not manageable. It included both verbal and physical abuse to other pupils and staff members, as well as other crimes, but it is the rise in violent pupils that has been particularly interesting. What effect does the removal from the education system have on a young person, and how does it change the potential trajectory of their future and adult life?
Early Violence Initially Stems from Home
Problem parenting has been cited as one of the primary causes, as far back as the child’s development from birth to 2 years of age. With an increase in early years neglect, violence from one or both parents and substance abuse, it would seem evident that the development of the child diverts from the ‘normal’ path. Worryingly statistics also show that children with violent tendencies may peak as early as six years of age causing classroom disruption. This path does not bode well for the prospects of a young person if the issues cannot be identified and rectified. But, with schools forced down the road of exclusion, due to lack of resource and power, have we inadvertently created more violence in later life?
Lack of Intervention Leads to Lack of Control
The problems of early violence have become such that schools have been forced to consider removing children from the classroom on a permanent basis from the age of 5. It means that potentially a child can be excluded from school within months of entering the education system due to classroom disruption, which prevents them from accessing learning, and if the problems are at home, a lack of intervention to amend behaviours. It potentially means the child never recovers from this spiral. Data on young offenders does not cover children under the age of 10 but figures available show that in the school year 2015-2016 just under 3,100 children, age five or under, were excluded from schools. A worrying statistic, as these children are then under the radar until they turn 10 and can be tracked once more. The question remains will we find these children still involved in antisocial behaviour, as we assume this was the reason they were expelled to maintain classroom safety or worse – are they now involved in criminal activities including violent crimes?
Schools Need Intervention Powers
A child willing to use violence of a physical or verbal nature are unlikely to transform without help, and if such support is not available before the problem escalates to expulsion, the trends show that violence in young people continues to increase. The issue remains that intervention programs are not widely available in schools. There is no consistent approach across the country; some schools have no interventions in place, others have developed their programs, with the aim of preventing expulsion. One method has seen reconciliation practices where the offender and their victims are brought together to talk out the problem, but there is no evidence of the long-term effects on the violent behaviours. Other schools are making community service orders which sees the pupils atoning for their crimes. However, this labels them as criminal which could accelerate the negative behaviours.
Joined Up Approach is Needed
It would seem clear, from the evidence, that exclusions lead to an increase in youth offending. It has long been established as a path for life, which means that the violent pupils go on to become offending adults. Primarily, it would seem this stems from the lack of support to schools across the UK and insufficient knowledge and support to rehabilitate the pupils before the spiral begins. To reduce violent crime in young people, issues that start in the early years setting, police and schools need to work together to address the problems before the need to expel is reached. In theory, because statistics and research have demonstrated that exclusion leads to an increase in young offending, a reversal is possible if we can prevent more young people being removed from education. By keeping them in school with appropriate police supported restorative programs which include both parental and teacher support, the trend will start to reverse. Unless this can become a national strategy over a long-term period, the current use of exclusion looks set to deliver more young people that turn into adults who offend rather than children with problems that could have been rehabilitated.