School exclusions fuelling rise in Newham street violence, MP claims

West Ham MP Lyn Brown. Picture: Office of Lyn Brown

West Ham MP Lyn Brown. Picture: Office of Lyn Brown - Credit: Lyn Brown

School exclusions are fuelling a rise in violence on the streets of Newham, according to West Ham MP Lyn Brown.

Ms Brown said there was "no way back" into mainstream education for many young boys after being excluded from school and they needed "protection and not punishment" in many cases.

During a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, she said she has spoken to the parents of children who have been drawn into knife crime and county lines drug dealing and they told her that it was their son being thrown out of school that was a "tipping point".

Exclusions at Newham schools have increased by 81 per cent since 2013, figures show. In 2016/17 there were 44 permanent and 1,696 temporary or fixed-term exclusions in the borough.

Ms Brown said: "Once you are excluded from many of our schools there is absolutely no way back - none at all - into mainstream education and I'm worried that the government's apparent direction is going to make that situation worse.

"Exclusion is clearly linked with the horrifying rise in violence and the deaths of so many children on the streets of Newham. When I talk to the mums of children who have been groomed, caught up in county lines, the drug dealing, the carrying knives, the violence, they tell you loud and clear and they will tell anyone who wants to listen, that their son being excluded from school was the tipping point. It didn't create the problem, but it made it worse.

"I'm talking to so many parents and young people. I'm clear that the behaviour comes as a result of real, unimaginable fear. They've seen people being stabbed, they've seen people being shot or their friend has been stabbed and shot. The world around them is frightening and hostile - it's terrifying."

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Last year 37 young people from Newham were referred to a London-wide 'Rescue and Response' programme that aims to protect children from becoming embroiled in county lines drug dealing, making it the joint highest offending borough in the capital.

Ms Brown added: "These [young people] don't see the police or other adults around them as being able to protect them. They don't think it's possible to protect them and so therefore they have to protect themselves. They have to find coping mechanisms and sometimes that's going along with the person who is abusing, manipulating and grooming them. Because they see no alternative. If we collectively do not protect them, if we don't understand that they are acting out of fear and we simply punish the behaviour rather than the root causes, we're going to make things worse."

Newham Council created a youth safety board in March last year to explore ways of bringing down youth violence in the borough.

Last week it released a report that made 11 recommendations, including developing a programme providing support to young

adults who are "at risk of involvement in exploitation and violence, to address trauma, housing, and transitions into training and work".

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said: "Tackling violence an exploitation is a serious and urgent issue and a personal priority. The board has done a lot of listening and learning and we have got some really challenging issues that we must deal with together, including looking for ways to prevent violence."