School exclusions and knife crime are probably two symptoms which indicate similar underlying issues, says the head of Ofsted.

Amanda Spielman says there is a ‘harmful narrative’ that is developing over school exclusions and the potential of exclusion, leading to children carrying knives or joining gangs.

However, the head of the school’s inspection body says that the issue is ‘too complex’ to offer any simple answers.

She also adds that schools alone cannot be given the responsibility of tackling the issue of knife crime.

Ms Spielman explained: “Schools should and can play a part and many are doing so but this must be part of a wider coalition with police and local partners in support.”

Spate of knife crime killings involving young people

With the latest spate of knife crime killings involving young people, the government is now under growing pressure to act.

Now, Ofsted has published a report on safeguarding young people from knife crime in London.

Ms Spielman says that a decision to exclude a pupil for bringing a knife into school is not always taking that child’s best interests into account.

She says that schools are not carrying out knife searches or teaching students about knife crime over fears about how this will make them appear.

The Spielman said: “Many college and school leaders we have spoken to try to educate young people about knife crime dangers and the risk of their being exploited and groomed by gangs.

“However, leaders are worried that by doing this that they will then be seen as a problem school and be avoided by parents subsequently.”

Ofsted report highlights lack of dialogue

The Ofsted report highlights that there is a lack of dialogue between schools and local safeguarding partners over the reasons for searching and on the impact of carrying a knife.

The report uses the responses from 100 secondary schools as well as pupil and college referral units in London.

The Ofsted report follows a link being made by police chiefs between the off-rolling – when a pupil leaves a school without being excluded – and exclusion of problem pupils to rising knife crime.

Ms Spielman added: “There’s evidence pointing to a correlation between them but this doesn’t prove causation, of course.

“It’s as likely that knife crime and exclusions are symptoms of the same underlying problem and it is exacerbated by children’s services cuts.”