Expert hired by mayor to help drive down school exclusion rates

Maureen McKenna helped oversee a 90% drop in exclusions at Glasgow schools over a period of 14 years, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Maureen McKenna (right), pictured with Violence Reduction Unit director Lib Peck (credit GLA)
Maureen McKenna (right), pictured with Violence Reduction Unit director Lib Peck (credit GLA)

An education expert who oversaw a 90% fall in school exclusions in Glasgow has been tasked with driving down exclusions in London schools.

Maureen McKenna, a former director of education at Glasgow City Council, has been hired as a consultant by London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), with the goal of boosting “inclusive education” in the capital’s schools.

McKenna’s work in Scotland’s biggest city – which saw a fixed-term exclusions drop of 90% over a period of 14 years – coincided with a 50% reduction in violence.

She has now been tasked with helping to develop a ‘London Inclusion Charter’, aimed at supporting schools in prioritising inclusive practices and tackling stark disproportionalities seen in pupil exclusions.

The VRU said the charter’s development “will include shining a light on good practice, celebrating inclusion and recognising that reducing all forms of exclusion must go hand in hand with increasing young people’s sense of belonging and feelings of safety”.

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It added that driving down exclusions is important because the evidence shows that children with a history of either suspension or exclusion from school are more likely to be affected by violence.

Whilst less than one in 200 children in the UK are permanently excluded from school, the VRU said, almost one in two of the country’s prison population were excluded as children.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who set up the VRU in 2019, said he welcomed McKenna’s appointment, adding that she “brings strong expertise in working closely with schools and shares our ambition to give every young person the support they need to receive an education that will help fulfil their potential”.

McKenna said she was “delighted” to be working on the project.

“London’s Inclusion Charter will be a call to all in London who are invested in education,” she said.

“I am looking forward to engaging with schools, local authorities and trusts to consider how we can all work together to ensure that each and every one of London’s children and young people achieve their potential.

“There is so much good practice already in the city – we must build on this success and continue to place the needs of children and young people at the centre of everything we do.”

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