Sabrina our founder and CEO delivered a talk at Goldsmith’s University of London about the school to prison pipeline. Some of the main points that she spoke about have been included in this blog post.

The school to prison pipeline is a process where certain disciplinary practices in schools, increases the likelihood that certain students will come into contact with the  criminal justice system. Please see below a poster ( figure 1) that we created to show the path that an excluded student may go down.

Figure 1 – a poster to show the path that an excluded student may go down.

You can download a copy of the poster here

Supporting research

The Institute of Public Policy ( 2017) estimate that out of the 85, 975 people in UK prisons, 54,164 were excluded when at school. Even research dating all the way  back to 1995 supports the idea of the school to prison pipeline. The Home Office conducted a survey. The results showed that all of the males and over half of the females who responded were offenders who had been permanently excluded from school ( Graham and Bowling, 1995).

Did you know?

  • One in four students who are excluded are not in education, employment or training ( NEET) between the ages of 16-19 (Department of Education, 2011).
  • Not engaging with school and being excluded are very strong indicators for those who are at risk of involvement in youth violence (Youth Safety Taskforce, 2018).
  • Being excluded from school is a factor that will increase a young person’s risk of child criminal exploitation (National Crime Agency, 2018).
  • An excluded student is four times more likely to be jailed as an adult (The University of Edinburgh, 2016).
  • School exclusions make already vulnerable young people more vulnerable, as being excluded leads to a reduction in the number of hours that a student spends in a supervised environment (All-Party Parliamentary Groups, 2019).

Behaviour is communication

Persistent disruptive behaviour is the most common reason for all types of exclusions. Therefore, we believe that it is important to look at why the behaviours which can lead to being excluded are occurring.

If we do not understand the reason behind behaviour, our response will be based on an incorrect assumption. Let’s use the example of a baby. If a baby is crying because it needs its nappy changing but you think it is because it is hungry both parties are going to get frustrated. The baby will be frustrated because its needs are not being met and you would be frustrated because you will think that you are meeting the needs of the baby so you will wonder why the baby is still crying. Babies cannot communicate verbally what is wrong and the majority of students won’t verbally communicate what is wrong either. Their behaviour however will communicate a message. The behaviour will probably be very negative but remember ‘ the child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth’.

So, when we assume a particular behaviour is because of disobedience, rudeness, a lack of respect etc. We should always ensure that we have truly understood the why behind the behaviour. Only when this is done we can truly respond to their needs appropriately.


Say It With Your Chest recognises the negative impact that the school to prison pipeline can have. We therefore focus on disrupting the school to prison pipeline via  our Switch Ambassador Programme. Our programme works with students who are at the highest risk of exclusion. The programme includes bespoke group workshops and 1:1 mentoring sessions. We explore the reason behind their behaviour by facilitating topics like the power of choices and why do I feel this way.

The programme also gives young people a voice, by engaging them in conversations regarding how they can be better supported to stay in school and engaged with their education. Currently, students might rightly feel that all decisions around their education and lives are made by others; this can leave them feeling dis-empowered. Ultimately, the Switch Ambassador Programme empowers students rather than rescuing them, because we want students to take ownership of their future, their choices and the person that they want to be.

Next steps

If you would like to find out more about our Switch Ambassador Programme or you would like us to deliver a similar talk at your setting then please get in touch.


¹Institue of Public Policy and Research ( 2017), Making the diference:

² Graham, J. and Bowling, B. (1995) Young People and Crime. London: Home
Office Research Study 145. London: HMSO.

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