RESPONSE TO THE EPI REPORT ON UNEXPLAINED PUPIL EXITS

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) have today, Friday, 10 October) published their Unexplained pupil exits from schools report.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “The EPI report on unexplained pupil exists makes disturbing reading.

“We know that one of the most vulnerable groups of young people in our communities is those who are not in school.

“Some of these are students who have been excluded and some have simply gone ‘off-role’ and their absence is unexplained. Either way, these are highly vulnerable young people or they become the target of criminal gangs.

“The academisation of schools – taking them out of direct local authority control – has made it much more difficult for us to know the size of the problem and where accountability for the young people lies.

“We know that some academies and academy chains exclude some children because the problems they present the school with may affect their ratings with Ofsted. So high on the list of excluded children are the very poor, those with special educational needs, those with mental health issues, children from ethnic minority backgrounds and looked after children.

“We have recently launched a Violence Reduction Unit in South Yorkshire (VRU) which brings together a range of partners and the police to try to understand what leads children and young people into violent behaviours, so that we can help to draw them away.

“We shall be looking in some depth at the scale of exclusions in South Yorkshire because we recognise that those who are excluded from the mainstream, or are not attending school or college, are targeted by drug dealers. They will be groomed by gang members with the seductive promise of easy money.

“This is a problem that nine years of relentless cuts to youth services and the police has created. It has allowed the gangs to flourish and taken out of the community the very people who could have helped steer vulnerable young people in the right direction.”