School exclusions are a “pipeline to prison”, Lawrence Dallaglio has said.
The former England rugby union player explained that Alternative Provision (AP) – where children go once they have been expelled – has become a forgotten part of society.
The 2003 World Cup winner set up charity Dallaglio RugbyWorks in 2008 to help those excluded from mainstream education.
According to the organisation, on average 2,720 young people between the ages of 14-16 are excluded from school in the UK each year – 14 exclusions every school day.
It places its coaches in local AP where they work with local teaching staff, using the values of rugby to help youngsters develop a wide range of skills to gain qualifications and employment.
Dallaglio told the Press Association it worries him that 63% of the prison population were excluded from school at some point.
He added: “What that told me was that the system is fundamentally flawed.
“Exclusion then becomes a pipeline into prison. I know that sounds quite dramatic, but that is the facts.”
The former England captain continued: “And the cost of exclusion to the state I think could be significantly reduced if there is some sort of intervention at a crucial age.”
The Institute for Public Policy Research estimates the cost of exclusion is around £370,000 per young person in lifetime education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs.
Dallaglio said: “Alternative Provision has almost become a forgotten part of society that people don’t really seem to care too much about.
“But ultimately it is a part of society that is having quite a direct cost on society – we are starting to see a lot problems arising.
“There is no doubt that if you don’t change people’s behaviours, then it is going to be a problem.
“The other issue that we face in this country is that these young people that are in the AP environment get let out and released into society a year younger than anyone in mainstream.
“What that basically tells you is that the most vulnerable young kids, who need more support than anyone, are actually given less support than anyone.”
The rugby ace was speaking at the Greenhouse Centre in Marylebone, London, which uses sports coaching – particularly in table tennis – and mentoring to empower disadvantaged schoolchildren.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds also visited the centre to see the work it does and speak with children who have benefited from the scheme.
He agreed that AP is sometimes the hidden part of the schools system, but said it is a really important opportunity to help excluded youngsters get back into something purposeful and get qualifications.
Talking about the link between exclusions and violence, Mr Hinds said something that is overlooked is the issue of truancy.
He told the Press Association: “I have got a real sharp focus on attendance because we know with the terrible spate of violence that we have seen – most of which is not people under 18, but when it is, we know there is a strong correlation between being involved in violence and not being in school – persistent non-attendance.
“There has been focus on expulsions, but not so much focus on just not being at school. And it is a stronger correlation with persistent absence.”
Mr Hinds said that while parents have the responsibility to ensure their children attend school, it is still possible for them to truant even if dropped to the school gate.
He also defended the right of schools to be able to expel children, but said that should not mean the end of something for the student.
“That has to be the start of something positive,” said Mr Hinds.