London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is to invest almost £4 million in a new programme targeted towards early identification of special educational needs and interventions to support speech and communication skills in primary schools.
It comes as the latest data reveals that in the academic year to 2021 children with special educational needs were four times more likely to be excluded from school, while last year more than two thirds of children in England and Wales who had been cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence had special educational needs.
The VRU, set up and funded by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to lead an approach to tackling violence that is rooted in prevention and early intervention, is committed to supporting children and young people at critical stages such as early years and primary school.
Its new investment will seek to close the gaps in learning for children with speech and language needs and who are in the first three years of primary school. To be delivered during the next academic year across seven London boroughs, plans are being developed and will be discussed with local authorities around training teachers and staff to support children to reason, argue and explain, as well as other speaking and language interventions.
Supporting children’s language skills and their ability to think and communicate is central to narrowing the gap between socially disadvantaged children and their peers.
It’s a key focus as part of the VRU’s determination to keep young people in education because evidence shows it increases their life chances. However, in order to do that, it’s vital that schools and teachers are properly supported in working towards education being fully inclusive, fair and available to all. That involves investing in and supporting schools to intervene early – when it matters most – to drive down exclusions.
Evidence shows that children with a history of either suspension or exclusion from school are more likely to be affected by violence. Data shows that whilst less than 1 in 200 children are permanently excluded from school, almost one in two of the prison population were excluded as children.
Today’s announcement builds on the VRU’s £2m Inclusive and Nurturing Schools programme now being delivered in 70 primary and secondary schools across London. The programme, delivered by charities nurtureuk and Tender, aims to promote inclusive practices in school by keeping children safe, supported and thriving, tackling exclusions, and ensuring they have and maintain healthy relationship behaviours and attitudes.
Boroughs included in the programme are selected based on the highest rates of suspensions, children in need, pupils with special educational needs, persistent absenteeism and domestic violence incidents.
This investment supports the VRU’s work, in partnership with local authorities, schools and young people, in developing a London Inclusion Charter which is due to be launched by the end of this year.
Progress has been made in gathering support to develop a London-wide inclusion charter that all boroughs contribute to, that are locally-designed and led by each local authority in partnership with their schools.
Following discussions with young people, families, schools and local authorities, the charter will aim to:
- Create a set of minimum standards and principles, authored by children and young people, that educators, schools, governors, local authorities, Ofsted and the Department for Education are informed by when making decisions about a child’s education
- Recommend changes that promote inclusion at every point in the systems that exclude children and young people from education
- Provide a framework with practical approaches and materials for teachers and staff to create meaningful inclusion
- Establish inclusive practice across London that we can highlight, learn from and promote
- Give a voice to children impacted by school exclusions and disproportionately affected by violence
Today, VRU Director, Lib Peck, visited Norbury Manor Primary School in Croydon, to see how the Inclusive and Nurturing Schools programme is working to support children through inclusive practices and to better understand healthy relationships.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “I’m committed to doing everything I can so that all children and young Londoners benefit from the opportunities that education can provide. This is crucial to building a fairer, more equal city for everyone.
“That means making education accessible and available to all and intervening early to provide support to allow a young person to develop and thrive.
“City Hall’s Violence Reduction Unit is leading the way in tackling exclusions by funding programmes that are focused on working in partnership with schools and local authorities to give every young person the support they need to receive an education and fulfil their potential.”
Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said, “Education is the cornerstone of our communities. It’s where children and young people are safe, it’s where they grow and it’s where they develop and improve their life chances.
“The VRU’s focus is working in partnership to help make education available, inclusive and accessible to all. We know there are gaps in key communication skills exacerbated by the pandemic and its vital that we identify those early and intervene when it really matters most.
“We all have a role to play in making education inclusive for all and a fundamental part of that is giving hardworking teachers the support and training to identify gaps and to do what they do best – provide a platform for children to develop and thrive.
“That’s why we’re investing in a package of measures using early intervention to better develop speech and language skills. In promoting inclusive practices and healthy relationships we are supporting schools in providing accessible education for all young Londoners.”