Too frequently off-rolling is used by schools to hide exclusions. The system needs to be improved so the Council knows where every child and young person is within the education system, by mandating proper records so there is transparency around the date and reason for all managed moves. Transitions to home education need to be properly recorded on school information systems before pupils can be removed from the school roll. I will champion robust and transparent new systems.

Intervening to prevent and reduce exclusions

Exclusions are intricately related to institutional racism. Nationally, Black Caribbean pupils are permanently excluded from school at three times the rate of White British pupils, and Gypsy Roma and Traveller children are permanently excluded at five times the rate of White British pupils (Department for Education Timpson Review, 2019). 

Further, students with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) are five times more likely to be excluded from school than students without an EHC plan. Figures for students with undiagnosed special educational needs (SEND) are likely to be much higher but are not currently recorded. Following the Covid pandemic and the national emphasis on catch-up, SEND students are facing greater pressures with reduced support from specialist teaching assistants, learning support assistants and mental health professionals. The way a school or college operates its behaviour management policy can have a highly negative and exclusionary impact on SEND students. Autistic students are the largest group of SEND learners to be excluded.

Schools can make a difference and must create spaces with adequate and professional support opportunities to consider, and respond to, the impact of racism, poverty and mental health on their student population. Anti-racist policies are needed now, more than ever, as the legacy of Covid-19 casts a long shadow over our educational systems.

As Mayor, I will not hesitate to take academies to court for behaviour management policies where they appear to constitute a breach of the Equality Act.

Enhancing SEND Provision

Our children and young people with special needs and disabilities (SEND) deserve greater support. My mum was a SEND Coordinator at a large secondary school and from this I care passionately about SEND children being included and being given opportunities for them to live full lives.

When working in the NHS, I’ve been responsible for the health element of the EHCPs in a London borough as well as provision for children with life-limiting conditions (in receipt of Continuing Care funding). I worked closely with parent and carer groups – and from this understand how exhausting and stressful it is for parents and carers to have to relentlessly advocate for their children’s needs. I met with parents and carers regularly and together we increased their participation in decision-making, scrutiny of EHCP content and to hear their voices in improving health provision for their children. I also worked closely with SEND young people in designing the Local Offer.

I commit to reviewing the ways partent, carers and young people with SEND are included in decisions about their life and work hard to improve provision for SEND children.

A Hackney free of child poverty

Nearly 20% of local households are “income deprived”, meaning they are either out of work or on low earnings, while 8% of our 16 to 65 population have no qualifications.

Almost half (48%) of the borough’s children are living in poverty, with many more now at risk of falling into poverty due to sky-rocketing living costs. I am committed to working towards a Hackney free of child poverty.

Having recently met with “4in10”, London’s Child Poverty Network, I know that one of the main causes of poverty is a lack of affordable child care, preventing parents from taking up or continuing with secure work.

As a councillor, I have supported campaigns to save Fernbank and Hillside Children’s Centres, and as Mayor, I will have greater powers to protect subsidised child care.

Green Party Candidates
Zoë with Green Party parliamentary candidates, Antoinette Fernandez for Hackney North & Stoke Newington (left) and Chesca Walton for Hackney South and Shoreditch (right).

My plan for children and young people in Hackney

I pledge to:

  • Place greater emphasis on child-centred learning, drawing upon latest research and calling on national government to abolish Year 6 SATs.
  • Collaborate with students, parents and teachers to ensure they can shape key Council decisions through citizens’ assemblies on education, including around difficult subjects like school closures.
  • Take action to end school exclusions, listening to the borough’s young people and the young people’s voices in the “Holding Our Own” guidance (Liberty), with bold actions such as removing police from our schools and addressing where “behavioural guidelines” in schools are racist. 
  • Challenge academisation, which has led to high exclusion rates and an unacceptable school-to-prison pipeline.
  • Seek to increase support for children and young people with mentors, counsellors and family support – putting mental health and wellbeing at the top of the agenda for our children and young people.
  • Improve dialogue and collaboration between mainstream schooling and alternative provision, such as Pupil Referral Units, to enable young people to rejoin mainstream provision as best practice in our borough.
  • Recognise and challenge the harm and trauma of institutional racism, by advocating for anti-racist policies to be at the heart of our educational systems.
  • Work with schools to address attitudes which lead to violence, abuse and marginalisation of women and girls in schools and all educational contexts.
  • Support our children’s centres, working with parents and staff to make sure the right affordable provision is maintained and accessible.
  • Create a “Kite mark” accreditation scheme to celebrate centres of SEND excellence in our borough with a view to fostering knowledge exchange across the borough.
  • Call for greater national funding for SEND provision in our borough.

My Plan for a Fairer Greener Hackney