MIL-OSI United Kingdom: Mayor launches London’s Inclusion Charter – the first city-wide of its type – to help tackle rising suspensions and thousands of children losing out on learning

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Source: London Assembly

  • Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit develops first city-wide Charter of its type built in partnership between young people, teachers and local authorities 
  • It comes as data shows growing suspensions and persistent absenteeism in London 
  • The equivalent of 1,430 children each day lost learning due to suspension or absenteeism in London alone in latest figures – up more than 70 per cent on pre-pandemic levels 
  • The Charter is boosted by a £1.4 million investment from the VRU in a partnership with The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) through its impactful Rights Respecting Schools Award including free support, training and resources 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today launched London’s Inclusion Charter – a partnership between young people, schools and local authorities to help tackle rising suspensions and absenteeism that has led to thousands of children losing out on learning – and becoming at greater risk of exposure to violence.  

Figures show that the equivalent of 1,430 children each day lost learning in London in 2021/22 due to suspension or persistent absenteeism – up 71 per cent on pre-pandemic levels in 2018/19.* Evidence demonstrates that children and young people are safer in school. It’s why driving up attendance and tackling rising suspensions and absenteeism are at the heart of the VRU’s prevention work.  Data shows that since 2018/19, suspensions in London have increased by 14 per cent, while persistent absenteeism has grown 106 per cent*.  

There is a correlation between children with a history of suspension or exclusion from school and violence. An Ofsted report on knife crime showing children excluded from school were twice as likely to carry a knife, while separate research highlights one in two of the prison population were excluded as children.*   

London’s Inclusion Charter, the first city-wide of its type, builds on the good practice and expertise taking place across the city and has been developed by the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in partnership with young people, schools, parents and carers and education specialists. The Charter is underpinned by four guiding principles centred on inclusive practice that is backed up by research on the views of young people, parents and teachers. A key strand of the charter is a new £1.4 million investment from the Mayor’s VRU in a partnership with UNICEF UK that will provide child rights resources and training to support inclusive practice, learner voice and engagement for all state-funded school and education settings in London for the next four years.  The Award recognises a school’s achievement in putting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into practice within the school and beyond.   

There are already 18 boroughs signed up to the principles of the Charter, including Barking & Dagenham, Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Lambeth, Newham, Southwark, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth and Westminster.  The Mayor is today calling for all schools and local authorities to sign up to the principles of the Charter and take up the free offer of support.   

The Mayor is clear that the Charter is not a zero-tolerance approach to exclusions or suspensions. He firmly believes those decisions must be made by teachers and schools because there may be times when exclusion or suspension is necessary for the safety and wellbeing of children and staff.   

The Mayor believes we need a commitment for change to keep young people safe and to help them develop and thrive in school. This must be backed up by investment to support schools and the promotion of good practice already happening across London. There are schools, supported by local councils, that already put children’s rights first and have adopted a whole school approach where every child matters. The Charter will share and shine a light to support the approach across the city. 

The VRU, set up by the Mayor and the first in England and Wales, has been building a campaign since July 2022 with young people, teachers and local authorities that has led to the development of London’s Inclusion Charter. It’s also been developed with community groups, anti-racist organisations and education specialists including Mission44, the Fair Education Alliance and the Who’s Losing Learning Coalition. The Charter will work to help tackle suspensions, absenteeism and lost learning, but the causes are deeply complex that no one agency can achieve on its own. 

It’s backed up by new research, commissioned by the VRU, and published today by the University of Bath which captured the views of nearly 4,000 school children, parents and educators. It found that two-thirds of primary school children and more than half of secondary-aged young people felt that having school rules that were fair would help them feel safe, while 67 per cent of primary students felt not being listened to impact their sense of belonging. Being safe and belonging are both crucial factors in attendance in education.  

Their views informed four guiding principles that underpin London’s Inclusion Charter:

  • Embedding Equity and Diversity
  • Students as Active Citizens
  • Being Adaptable and Reflective
  • Beyond Academic Achievement  

The principles set out how to support and build further on greater inclusion across schools and services in London.  

The VRU’s commitment to schools and local authorities is a new £1.4m partnership with UNICEF UK. It means that from today, there is a universal offer of UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting Schools Award programme free to all education settings in all 32 local authorities across London for the next four years.  

This work sits alongside nearly £10m investment from the Mayor in VRU education programmes to tackle exclusions, develop healthy relationships and mentors in Pupil Referral Units. 

Today’s launch is further demonstration of the Mayor’s commitment to children and young people in school. His funding has already helped deliver free school meals to 287,000 children every day and he has committed a further £140m to extend this for a further year. This not only improves nutrition but ensures better school engagement and concentration. 

The Mayor today joined young people, teachers, local authorities and education specialists to launch London’s Inclusion Charter at the VRU’s ‘An Inclusive Education for All Young Londoners conference’. 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I firmly believe in the importance of education and being in school to keep young people safe and to help them develop and grow. 

“We are seeing suspensions and absenteeism rise both in London and the rest of the country. The equivalent of more than 1,400 children are losing out on education each day in London alone. That can’t be right. We also know there is a correlation between school exclusions and violence. 

“It’s why we are launching London’s Inclusion Charter – the first of its type city-wide. My Violence Reduction Unit has led the way, working in partnership with young people, local authorities and schools to develop a Charter that prioritises education in our city that is fully inclusive, fair and available to all. 

“Of course, this approach requires investment and that’s why we’re investing £1.4m in a partnership with UNICEF UK to provide further training and resources to support our hardworking teachers to embed inclusion which we know keeps young people in school, safe and able to thrive.”   

Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said: “We know that children and young people are safer in school. It’s why tackling all forms of school exclusions and driving up attendance is core to the Violence Reduction Unit’s prevention work. 

“London’s Inclusion Charter is a commitment to change that promotes and invests in inclusive practice. Children’s rights and the experience of teachers is at its heart.  

“There are already lots of schools and local authorities demonstrating inclusion and its flourishing. Our work has been about building momentum to help support that and to realise our ambition of a London-wide Charter that prioritises inclusion, belonging and safety. 

“Our partnership with UNICEF UK and funding for its Rights Respecting Schools Award for every education setting in London is our commitment to supporting the principles of inclusion in the Charter so that young people are safe and are given the opportunity to flourish.”   

Zubin Burley, a member of the VRU’s Young People’s Action Group, said: “The nature of the word inclusion lends it itself to us all creating a charter that is built around our unique community. While we have formed one for London, we invite every school in the city to use the principles of the Charter to create their own.  

“The Young People’s Action Group has a phrase ‘nothing about us without us’ and from my first session working on the Charter, that sentiment has been at the core of its development. Unlike other charters, this has not been a tokenistic effort. We have been surrounded by researchers and consultants yet what has mattered most is having the input of young people across London. For all young Londoners, this is their opportunity to transform their experience at school.”  

Karen Chamberlain, headteacher at Lillian Bayliss School in Lambeth, said: “Research is clear that being in school, every day, is the best way to maximise a child’s chances of the absolute best educational outcomes that, in turn, create the best possible life chances. 

“No child ‘deserves’ being excluded, and the reasons a child faces an exclusion must be understood as a product of an environment and circumstances created largely out of their own control. By working on greater inclusion in our systems and structures in schools, as well as supporting our children to become active citizens and advocates, we can all work towards better embodying equity practice.  

“I welcome London’s Inclusion Charter in helping towards tackling the underlying causes of children missing out on education to ensure we do the very best by the children that we serve.” 

Jon Sparkes, CEO of Unicef UK said: “This partnership is a game-changer for London’s children and their communities. When we teach children about their rights and integrate those rights into all aspects of school life, we create inclusive places where every young voice is valued. In a Unicef UK Rights Respecting School, children and adults work together to make sure children’s rights are more than just words – they are part of the whole school culture and create resilient, inclusive, and inspiring environments for children to learn.  

“The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child forms the basis of UNICEF’s work in the UK and overseas.  It sets out every child’s entitlement to a safe place to live, an education, protection from harm, and to have their voices heard and views taken seriously. These are the basic rights that every child needs to survive and thrive.” 

Jason Arthur, CEO at Mission 44 said: “Mission 44 believes all young people should feel included in the classroom and have the opportunity to succeed. We welcome the Mayor of London’s Inclusion Charter in its efforts to promote equity and diversity through a holistic education approach that supports all young people to thrive.” 

Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the NEU, said: “The NEU welcomes the London Inclusion Charter and think teachers will support the four principles, which are timely and offer a positive step for young people. A focus on ‘beyond academic achievement’, to value more of what young people contribute and enjoy, is absolutely the right direction. Opening up the UNICEF Rights Respecting approach to more schools- with extra funding is a really good way to share good practice and to empower young people to make positive choices. These are the sort of plans, pledges and practical policies that we need, if we’re to improve equity and life chances”    

Dr Ceri Brown, sociologist of education and an Associate Professor in the department of Education at the University of Bath, said: “A secure sense of belonging, safety and identity are fundamental to children and young people’s sense of inclusion in school, but also within their local communities and wider society.  

“It was a privilege to lead this piece of research into how schools can best meet these aims, in informing the development of London’s Inclusion Charter. Hearing from students, parents and educators across the whole of London, we learned that the role of schools goes beyond academic achievement, in building a secure and affirmed sense of belonging and identity as essential to children’s wellbeing and participation both in the here and now, as well as in their aspirations for the future.” 

MIL OSI United Kingdom