UK to build 39 new schools for challenging pupils as knife crime soars

Days after police officials and the mayor of London linked a spike in youth violence to rising school expulsions, the UK government has announced that 39 new schools will be built in England for children who need extra support.

Using £350m in previously announced funds, the school-building spree will create around 3,500 new school places across the country catering for pupils at risk of being excluded from school or who have complex needs such as learning difficulties and mental health conditions.

The so-called Special Education Needs units will be attached to mainstream schools.

Announcing the plan yesterday, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the schools "will make sure that more complex needs can be provided to help support every child to have a quality education". 

His announcement followed a call made on 7 March by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) from seven UK regions for Prime Minister Theresa May to take action against rising numbers of school exclusions, which they said make children vulnerable to being "sucked into criminality".

They said the number of young people permanently excluded across England had risen by 56% in the three years to 2017, blaming schools wanting to rise up in exam league tables. 

Nine out of 10 children in custody had been excluded from school, they added, citing research by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

Khan and the PCCs called on the prime minister to outlaw "off-rolling", which sees pupils disappear from school registers without having been formally excluded.

Theresa May’s government has come under extreme pressure to deal with a major spike in knife crime as it battles to get its version of Brexit through the House of Commons.

The number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales last year was at the highest level since records began in 1946, official figures show, while, according to The Guardian, 10 teenagers have been killed in knife attacks in the first two months of 2019 alone.

Sara Thornton, chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the government should be treating the rise in violence as a national emergency.

Image by John Gomez/Dreamstime

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  1. “Quality education” (whatever that means) won’t make a lot of difference to knife crime. That is a wider society problem, starting with home-life. Parents and guardians are the start before anything else.

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