University of Bath research was key in developing London’s Inclusion Charter, a scheme to tackle rising school suspensions and absenteeism in the city’s schools launched today (February 6 2024) by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Developed by the Mayor’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) the charter is a partnership between young people, schools and local authorities backed by £1.4M investment into UNICEF UK to provide free support and resources for all state-funded schools and education settings across London.

To help understand the complex causes behind suspensions, absenteeism and lost learning, Department of Education colleagues Dr Ceri Brown, Professor Michael Donnelly, Dr Alison Douthwaite and PhD candidate Yusuf Olaniyan were commissioned by the VRU to capture the views of nearly 4,000 school children, parents and educators across London’s 32 boroughs.

Their work found that two-thirds of primary school children and more than half of secondary-aged young people felt that having school rules that were fair would help them feel safe, while 67 per cent of primary students felt not being listened to impact their sense of belonging. Being safe and belonging are both crucial factors in attendance in education.

In analysing the findings from the data, the research team at Bath developed a model for inclusion in school, which relates these key principles to the values that underpin them and the impacts that result on from them, leading to inclusion.

The research, published today, informed the development of four guiding principles underpinning the charter:

  • Embedding Equity and Diversity
  • Students as Active Citizens
  • Being Adaptable and Reflective
  • Beyond Academic Achievement

Lead author Dr Brown said: “A major contribution from this study is in identifying how fundamental a secure sense of belonging, safety and identity are to children and young people’s sense of inclusion in school, but also within their local communities and wider society. It was a privilege to lead this piece of research into how schools can best meet these aims, in informing the development of London’s Inclusion Charter.

“Hearing from students, parents and educators across the whole of London, we learned that the role of schools goes beyond academic achievement, in building a secure and affirmed sense of belonging and identity as essential to children’s wellbeing and participation both in the here and now, as well as in their aspirations for the future.”

The Violence Reduction Unit was set up by the Mayor of London and is the first in England and Wales. It has been building a campaign since July 2022 with young people, teachers and local authorities leading to the development of London’s Inclusion Charter. It works with community groups, anti-racist organisations and education specialists including Mission44, the Fair Education Alliance and the Who's Losing Learning Coalition. During the launch event, The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “We are seeing suspensions and absenteeism rise both in London and the rest of the country. The equivalent of more than 1,400 children are losing out on education each day. That can’t be right. We also know there is a correlation between school exclusions and violence.

“It’s why we are launching London’s Inclusion Charter – the first of its type city-wide. My Violence Reduction Unit has led the way, working in partnership with young people, local authorities and schools to develop a Charter that prioritises education in our city that is fully inclusive, fair and available to all.”