Marvin Rees backs calls to stop excluding children from school for bad behaviour

<p>A similar zero-exclusions policy was recently introduced in the London Borough of Southwark</p>

A similar zero-exclusions policy was recently introduced in the London Borough of Southwark

Schools in Bristol could soon face a new rule banning exclusions as the number of children punished continues to increase.

Bristol’s youth mayors are urging schools to completely stop excluding students, amid concerns of racism and harming the life chances of disadvantaged young people. Marvin Rees, Bristol mayor, backed the zero-exclusions policy as the issue was “very close” to him.

A similar zero-exclusions policy was recently introduced in the London Borough of Southwark, after council chiefs there said black pupils were more likely to be kicked out of school. But many local headteachers are now rebelling, the Sunday Times recently reported.

In theacademic year 2020-21, there were a total of 3,687 exclusions (3,680 temporary and seven permanent) – up from 3,371 in 2019-20. Of those last year, 23 were for breaches of Covid rules such as non-compliance with social distancing.

During a Bristol City Council cabinet meeting, on Tuesday, August 2, Mr Rees said a relative of his had been excluded, throwing them into “educational limbo”.

A similar zero-exclusions policy was recently introduced in the London Borough of Southwark

He said: “[The youth mayors] wrote a guest blog a couple of weeks ago on Bristol driving to become a zero-exclusion city. It’s very close to me because I had a member of my family excluded from school and thrown into educational limbo, and there was nobody to help him. It was only because of the brothers and sisters around that we were able to rally around him.

“We need to find a way of supporting schools, but we need to find a way of making sure the education system is a home to every child within the city as well. We don’t think it’s easy but we certainly think it should be our aspiration, and we should be taking concrete steps towards it. I want to thank the youth mayors for setting this as a city agenda and just encouraging us as a city to start to work out how we deliver that.”

In the blog post, Anika Mistry and Jeremiah Dom-Ogbonna, Bristol’s youth mayors, urged schools to offer support to misbehaving students instead of “overactive discipline”, stressing the importance of young people staying in a classroom. They added that banning exclusions would mean fewer young people “going down the wrong path”.

They said: “Often the decision for an exclusion isn’t justifiable, and concerns have been raised about the link between exclusions and race, where institutional racism could be a factor. We want young people to be appreciated and feel that they have support when they need it rather than becoming isolated.

“We have seen too many stories where young people have been put into isolation — short and long term — where this isn’t warranted. This isn’t OK. A situation that should have been easily resolved, by just speaking and letting the students know their wrongdoing, has escalated leading to irreconcilable damage, not just to their education, but to their future as a whole.”