The Department for Education’s Behaviour Advisor has hit out at Bristol this week, criticising No More Exclusion plans announced for the city.
It comes in the wake of Bristol Youth Mayors Anika Mistry and Jeremiah Dom-Ogbonna, announcing the intention on Twitter.
On Friday 22 July, they Tweeted: ‘Exclusion in schools is increasing across the country, destroying the lives of young people – this has gone on too long! We are introducing a campaign to make Bristol a ‘Zero Exclusion City’ a campaign introduced by Bristol Youth Mayors.’
Elaborating In a blog on Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees’ website, they wrote: ‘However, for some students, school feels like a prison, where often the decision for an exclusion from school isn’t justifiable and concerns have been raised about the link between exclusions and race, where institutional racism could be a factor. We feel that we all should take action and campaign for Bristol to become a ‘Zero Exclusion City’, where our schools understand and respect young people and make them feel appreciated and valued, both in and out of school.’
The announcement caused Department for Education (DfE) Behaviour Advisor Tom Bennett, to lash out at the city.
Bennett has been a vocal critic of the NME campaign As far back as October 2020, he called the movement ‘a scandal’.
Bennett Tweeted: ‘The No More Exclusions scandal has at least had the effect of exposing the extremist, anti-child ideologies that trouble mainstream discourse around school behaviour. Put simply: some people really do believe every child just needs a kind word and everything will be ok’
In response to the announcement made by Bristol Youth Mayors, Bennett wrote: ‘Bristol: working to make schools less safe for children and staff? Zero exclusions strategies are a safeguarding disaster, and go against current DfE guidelines.’
The Tweet attracted the attention of other vocal opponents of the scheme, including blogger teacher Andrew Old, who Tweeted: ‘Another city where the politicians are willing to make schools unsafe for the sake of ideology.’
No More Exclusions (NME) is a black-led anti-racist organisation aiming to abolish exclusions. They work as a coalition which includes child, young people and their families as well as education professionals, trade unionists, social workers, legal professionals, faith leaders, journalists and a further wide ranging number of people who support the cause.
NME says ‘We believe that school exclusions form part of a continuum of state violence enacted against communities racialised as Black, brown, Muslim and Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, against disabled people and against working-class communities. We support all those struggling to abolish exclusions and transform education into a nurturing and enriching experience for all children and young people.’
The group aims to ‘effect change from the bottom up’ by working with individuals and collectives who share their values and vision for social justice in education.
Bristol’s most recent exclusion data for 2022 can be read here: https://chopsybaby.com/magazine/permanent-school-exclusions-in-bristol-update-at-people-scrutiny-commission/ although up-to-date data for the city is due from the DfE next month.
At the time, Director of Education Alison Hurley, told People Scrutiny Commission: In response to the figures submitted to People Scrutiny Commission, Director of Alison Hurley, said: “The permanent exclusions in Bristol was extremely high for a number of years. Lots of work is taking place in order to reduce those. They are still low compared to national numbers in terms of permanent exclusions in Bristol and our data also includes those who are Bristol children educated outside of the Local Authority. Those figures are much higher than Bristol themselves so the Bristol rate still remain low. We are always concerned when any child or young person is permanently excluded and work hard with the school to try and prevent that happening but unfortunately there are still cases within our system where there has been a permanent exclusion.”