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Letter to the Editor


The Telegraph editorial (18 Oct 18) raised the tragic issue of knife crime and its causes. It highlighted the importance of early intervention - the work we do with primary school children who are 'at risk'. We wrote back.....


Your Editorial (18 Oct 18) hit the nail on the head – serious violence amongst youngsters is often the tragic end of a much longer chain of events.

Many of the children involved will have been excluded from school. Separated from the stability, friendships and positive environment that provides, they become vulnerable to negative influences. Keeping children engaged with education is critical to minimising the risk of them going off the rails.

But it’s difficult if there is a class of 30 children to teach, and one or two don’t play ball. With few options available, it’s hardly surprising disruptive pupils find themselves isolated or excluded – at which point things can go downhill fast. For them a different approach is needed, especially as many are likely to have special educational needs or other challenges.

Alternative providers such as Whirlow Hall Farm Trust play a vital role in keeping ‘at risk’ and excluded children engaged with education. We provide a different environment, an alternative approach and a chance to break the downward spiral. At Whirlow Hall Farm Trust we focus on the youngest children – 6 and 7 year olds whose schooldays are in danger of ending before they’ve even begun.

Some will say that we are rewarding bad behaviour. No doubt most children do enjoy themselves here - that’s a good thing. Their behaviour improves, they become receptive and they begin to enjoy learning. But our goal is always to get the child back into mainstream education or help them stay there; the success rate is high.

The current model, where the City’s Alternative Providers receive inadequate financial support, is not sustainable. Some doubt they will still be here in a year’s time. Options will become increasingly limited.

This problem affects us all, including those not directly impacted by the misery of ruined childhoods, lost potential or lives cut tragically short. Studies show that the over the course of a lifetime, the average permanent exclusion costs taxpayers £400,000 in education, health, benefits and criminal justice. There were 120 reported permanent exclusions in Sheffield last year.

We need a comprehensive and adequately resourced approach to address the issue. Investing a fraction of the annual cost of exclusions would enable real progress to be made.

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