CEN statement (BBC Radio London 28/04/2021)

The Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) is a non-profit organisation that aims to support and reintegrate pupils excluded from school back into education. 

Of all the students that CEN is currently supporting across London and beyond, we have noticed an alarming number of exclusion cases originating from Harris Academy schools across London. One case in particular at Harris Academy Tottenham, has recently been in the news and was featured on BBC Radio London's Vanessa Feltz show on 28th April. One of CEN's Advocates appeared on the show alongside the parent that we are supporting.

A Year 11 student with special educational needs was permanently excluded from school, just weeks before taking his GCSE exams. The student, aged 15, was permanently excluded in September 2020 as a result of a single incident that took place last year. The exclusion was without proper investigation and showed clear racial prejudice from the Head Teacher and senior staff members. The incident, which led to the 15-year-old student’s permanent exclusion, involved other ‘non-white peers’ who although sharing the same level of involvement, remain at the Tottenham school preparing for their GCSE exams in just a few weeks.

CEN believes that students go to school not just to learn how to think, or to learn how to reproduce facts to pass tests, but also to learn how to behave. As young people grow, they are in the process of learning social skills, especially self-management skills, which includes managing their behaviour, anger and learning what behaviours are appropriate in which settings.

Schools have always had to deal with the tendency of students to kick against boundaries, to show off to their peers, to frustrate teachers and to be intolerant of some teachers’ own very poor teaching and people skills. But, the schools that do so best are the ones that make a distinction between the student and what they could be - and could be assisted to become - and the conduct they display.

 

Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that all children have a right to an education.

Children’s right to education cannot be forfeited on account of their poor behaviour, or their non-compliance with codes of conduct or policies relating to school uniform. Part of their educational entitlement is guidance and support in embracing their personal responsibility to act in a manner that helps to make the school a place where all can feel valued and can learn and teach in safety and comfort.

At CEN we believe that a child’s education is a partnership between home and school at the centre of which is the happiness and wellbeing of the student, which should be the priority – even above his or her academic success. So, CEN also supports schools in working with students identified as being at risk of exclusion.

No parent is ever prepared for their child to be excluded from school nor the consequences of that decision which can often drastically alter the trajectory of a young person’s life, and permanently affect their life chances. CEN not only supports parents, during and after their children are excluded, we also believe that it is important to help parents avoid such a situation. We provide parents with the opportunity to work together as part of a forum, where they can learn or hone skills that they can then take back to their own communities. With these newly developed skills, they can then go on to create their own Parent Empowerment Networks; either within their child’s school, their local place of worship or in their own family or neighborhood.

CEN provides advocacy and representation to students excluded from school. This support is free and students and families are supported in Governors Disciplinary Committee hearings, Independent Appeal Panel hearings and Special Educational Needs Tribunal hearings.

 CEN is a small charity whose Education Advocacy Team is entirely volunteer led and managed by a small staff team. CEN is a completely independent charity, not supported by any statutory body.

If you are dealing with a current case where your child has been wrongfully excluded, please contact us on 020 7733 0397. 

If you have a past case where your child has been wrongfully excluded and would like to share your story, please email us at info@cenlive.org