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London community leaders respond to community safety debate

Community leaders from Citizens UK alliances across the capital have responded to the Mayor of London's welcome announcement that he will be implementing a 'public health approach' to reducing violence.

Having engaged with our respective civic institutions and listened to hundreds of parents, school staff and young people as part of local Borough Commissions on Youth Violence, our leaders comment on the importance of tackling school exclusions - one of the factors in the increase in knife crime - in a considered way.

Pete Brierley, lead organiser, London Citizens, said:

“The communities we work with are concerned that the increase in school exclusions is alienating young people and a factor in the increase of knife crime across the capital. However, we also know that schools are under pressure and need the funding to help at-risk children stay in school wherever possible. Giving schools the support and resource to reduce exclusions and keep pupils engaged in the community life is one key change - alongside a number of other factors - which central Government, the Mayor, Police and community organisations urgently need to make to tackle the rise in serious youth violence.”

Gill Burbridge, Principal, Leyton Sixth form, said:

“Schools and colleges have a duty to protect students and staff from risks posed by other students. However, the consequences of excluding vulnerable students must also be considered. Young people who have direct experience of being excluded are often made more vulnerable and therefore more susceptible to being drawn into further, harmful behaviours. The very language of ‘exclusions’ and the process of being removed or withdrawn can lead to further experiences of trauma, rejection, and displacement”

The Right Rev Robert Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton, said:

"The Diocese of London supports over 150 schools, and we know the significant pressures that our, and all, schools are under. In addition, as we work in long term partnerships which seek widespread human flourishing, rooted in the Common Good, Our Diocesan Synod has just passed the following Resolution, alongside several others relating to the issue of violent crime. Namely we “call upon the National Church Institutions to consider how the use of Exclusions impacts on violent youth crime, and encourage Alternative Provision with a Christian ethos, in areas which are affected by youth violence.”

Posted on 14 Mar, 2019