Published: 00:01, 15 March 2019
Exclusions at Medway's schools have increased by 22% since 2013, as police chiefs have warned this could be contributing to a surge in knife crime.
Police commissioners from seven forces across England and Wales have written to Prime Minister Theresa May, calling for urgent action to fix the "broken" school system.
The letter argues that exclusions put vulnerable children at risk of being sucked into violent crime.
In 2016-17, secondary schools in Medway handed out 2,219 exclusions to children, the latest Department for Education data shows.
This was a rate of 12 exclusions for every 100 pupils, and a 22% increase from 2013-14 when there were just 1,821 exclusions.
"Clearly, the way the education system deals with excluded young people is broken," the police chiefs' letter reads.
"It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education."
Knife offences investigated by Kent Police, the police force which covers the local authority, have increased by more than 50% in the last four years, the latest ONS figures show.
'It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education.'
The force recorded 793 offences involving a knife or a sharp weapon between April 2017 and March 2018.
In 2013-14, there were 501 cases.
Across England and Wales, the number of fatal stabbings hit the highest level since comparable records began, more than 70 years ago.
The letter to Mrs May also calls for off-rolling – where pupils are removed from the school roll without a formal exclusion – to be outlawed, and for greater funding for schools to improve early intervention for children at risk of exclusion.
The National Association of Headteachers said it backed the majority of the police chiefs' points, stating: "School budgets are at breaking point and many interventions for our most vulnerable young people are being cut."
However, it added that violent crime was the result of "deep-seated problems" – including poverty, inequality, and cuts to police and council budgets – and could not be blamed on exclusions alone.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "A school’s first duty is the safety of its students, and so school leaders need to retain the autonomy to exclude a violent pupil in order to keep everyone else safe."
Ofsted said it had seen no convincing evidence that exclusions lead to knife crime or gang violence.
In Medway, there were 60 permanent and 2,159 temporary, or fixed-term, exclusions in 2016-17.
Across the country, exclusions have increased by 44% since 2013, climbing from 214,580 to 309,275.
The sharpest increase was in permanent exclusions, which have increased by 60% to 6,385.
A Department for Education spokesman said permanent exclusions should only ever be a last resort.
He said: “It is still vital that young people who are excluded from school are able to engage with high-quality teaching and education.
"That’s why we have launched a £4 million fund which is delivering projects to improve outcomes for children in alternative provision, including pupil referral units."
Medway Council said it's down to individual schools to decide on exclusions.
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