How school exclusions entrench child criminal exploitation

Fiona Simpson and Just for Kids Law
Friday, April 8, 2022

Experts have shared some of the reasons why excluding children from school can increase their risk of being exploited by criminals.

Exploiters will often engineer a child’s exclusion, experts say. Picture: Adobe Stock
Exploiters will often engineer a child’s exclusion, experts say. Picture: Adobe Stock

More than eight in 10 young people in custody have faced suspension or exclusion from school, government figures show.

A coalition of children’s charities led by Just for Kids Law has written to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi urging him to increase protections for excluded children against such risks.

Just for Kids Law has shared information on the ways in which school exclusions entrench child criminal exploitation:

  • Exploiters will often engineer a child’s exclusion, including coercing victims to carry drugs or weapons into school which will likely result in an exclusion.

  • Being out of school and on the streets increases children’s risk of exploitation. Stefan, a Just for Kids Law client and young school exclusion campaigner, said: “When someone gets kicked out of school [they are] pushed right into the groomers' hands. There's people out there looking to make a fast buck off someone's child. If you're not in school, what else are you doing? You're going to be on the street with other people…that was my situation. “When you push a child outside of school straight away someone's going to find him. The groomer is going to buy them new trainers and other [gifts]. But it all comes at a price. They buy you things, then you owe them.”

  • Children are more likely to be exposed to child criminal exploitation  outside of mainstream school. Many children tell us that their first exposure to criminal gangs took place in alternative provision after they had been excluded from mainstream education.  

  • Being excluded often leaves children feeling rejected and unwanted by the education system. Exploiters often prey on these feelings and on the reluctance of those children to seek support from the professionals around them.

  • A child who commits an offence because they are a victim of exploitation is rightly able to have those circumstances recognised as part of their defence in the criminal courts. Worryingly, there is no equivalent protection for children who face being excluded from school in the same circumstances, despite the lifelong consequences for the child.

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