As I write this, the tragedy of young lives cut short by knife crime is dominating the headlines and news bulletins. As someone who works daily with young people the thought of losing one of the Archway Learning Trust (ALT) students in such a tragic way is almost unbearable. Many voices have been raised in the debate about how we as a nation can bring this violence against the young to an end.
One emerging strand in the discussions focuses on School Exclusions and the number of young people who are falling outside the education system and are at risk of falling into violence. Our policy at ALT has always been to minimise the number of permanent exclusions. The latest figures published for 2016/17 shows the number of permanent exclusions nationally was 6385 students, 70 of which were within Nottingham City and none of these were students from our schools. I have written previously about the opportunities that I have had on behalf of the Trust to present to the Secretary of State for Education, etc, etc, our policy and the huge efforts that ALT leaders and staff go to achieve these figures.
In a competitive education system there is immense pressure on schools to achieve strong results in the league tables and good ratings from OFSTED. Disruptive and demotivated students can be a threat to this and permanent exclusion a tempting option for school leaders. Here at ALT our focus on each and every young person in our care has led us to put robust processes and support networks in place to avoid any individual being ‘rejected’ from the system.
I am delighted that we are a Multi Academy Trust who can demonstrate that there are positive alternatives to permanent exclusions. However, I am much prouder of the fact that we are striving to bring high quality education and the associated improved life chances to all the young people within ALT. This is immensely challenging work and I pay tribute to the hard working teams across the Trust and to all our young people who are rising to the challenges they face.