Stabbing victim Alex had been ‘crying out for help’

Youth worker speaks out over teenager who he says was ‘kicked out of school’

Friday, 16th August 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Alex Smith

Alex Smith and, right, flowers left at the scene of the killing on Monday

A SIXTEEN-year-old boy who was stabbed to death this week had been excluded from school, the Tribune understands.

Alex Smith, who lived in Islington until recently, died after being stabbed several times shortly after 11pm on Monday at the Regent’s Park estate in neighbouring Camden.

He is the second Islington teenager to be killed this year after Nedim Bilgin, 17, was knifed to death in Caledonian Road in January.

Murder detectives believe Alex was chased around Munster Square before the attack.

The suspects fled in a vehicle that was discovered burnt out nearby.

Alex went to Acland Burghley School in Tufnell Park until last summer when he was excluded at the end of Year 10.

It has sparked fresh concerns about the impact of exclusions, with one youth worker who had contact with Alex saying the youngster was “crying out for help”.

Chris Preddie OBE, who is based in Finsbury Park, said: “I was working with him and he was going great . . . but you know what the school did, the school kicked him out.”

He did not name the school, but added: “I’m saying, sometimes we can do interventions, sometimes we can work with young people – but if it’s not going to be something that’s continuous … they think they can change a child in six hours.

“We really tried to support that child but didn’t have the resources, didn’t have the support, didn’t have the understanding, where sometimes the government and the organisations need to step up and do more, because that boy was crying out for help for a long time, for a long time now.

“I personally feel touched by this story because this young boy had so much potential.”

Islington had one of the highest exclusion rates in London last year sparking a Town Hall scrutiny investigation into the issue.

The Tribune has run a series of stories questioning links between exclusion rates and support available to troubled pupils.

Sources say Alex had been attending a pupil referral unit and had contact with council youth services in Islington.

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Islington Council’s executive member for children, young people and families, said: “We are appalled and devastated at this tragic loss of a young life.

“Our heartfelt thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of this young person, who lived in Islington until earlier this year and is remembered by many people in our community.”

Nicholas John, headteacher at Acland Burghley School, said: “Alex was a student at our school from November 2015 to July 2018.

“He was clever and talented, and well liked by staff and students. He had many friends, and will be missed terribly by all those who taught and supported him during his time at the school.

“We are utterly devastated by his tragic death.”

Acland Burghley and Camden and Islington councils have not confirmed the reason for Alex’s exclusion.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, said earlier this year that schoolchildren are much more likely to be vulnerable to grooming, gangs, serious violence and getting into trouble with the law once they have been excluded.

Campaigners have called for more support to help children at risk of exclusion to stay in school.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Healy said: “We believe the victim was chased around the square by a number of suspects prior to being stabbed a number of times.

“The suspects made off in a vehicle which was discovered burnt out nearby. Another vehicle believed to be involved in the incident was also found burnt out some distance away.

“We’re still in the early stages of our investigation and we are urging those who have information to do the right thing and speak to us.

“I am sure that others will have seen something last night around the Munster Square area. I am also interested in those who may have dash-cam footage in the area at the time.”

Anyone with information that could assist the investigation is asked to call the incident room on 020 8358 0400 and quote CAD8433/ 12Aug, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via

Young people with information can also leave messages with the charity Fearless via their website

• A 23-year-old man and an 18-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of murder on Wednesday. They remain in custody at a central London police station.

 Mum: ‘Exclusions lead to crime’

A MOTHER whose son was excluded for 50 days in the past year has called on the government to intervene to halt exclusions in the borough, as figures shamed Islington as having the highest fixed-term exclusions rate in London.

Kara Harding, 45, whose teenage son is regularly sent home from St Aloysius’ RC College in Highgate, said the figure showed a “flaw” in the way schools manage pupils in Islington.

The Department for Education’s figures showed there were 1,420 fixed-period exclusions in the borough’s secondary schools in 2017/18.

A Town Hall probe into the continuing high exclusion rate was completed in April this year but Ms Harding warned that her son was still facing threats of exclusion from his school.

The figures also revealed that a five-year-old child was permanently excluded from a primary school during that same period.

Ms Harding, whose son has a learning disability, warned that “children are at risk of getting into crime when they’re excluded”.

She said: “Youths getting involved in crime is getting worse. If you’re constantly getting excluded there’s nothing for the kids to do at home and they get bored.

They go outside and meet bad people. You start to lose self-worth, too, if you’re not at school.”

Her son was not offered work to complete during his exclusions and is now “far behind and struggling” compared to his fellow students. Ms Harding, who is a single parent, has to take time off from her role as a crime response officer to attend a meeting with the school every time her son is sent home.

“It’s disgusting what they’re doing to him,” she said. “I collapsed at work recently. The doctor said it was because of stress and that’s because of what is happening to my son.

Cllr Comer-Schwartz

“He’s hardly in school and now suffers panic attacks from stress himself. I have no idea what will happen to him.

“I just don’t know what to do any more and I feel the school doesn’t want to deal with him because of his special needs.”

There were 26 permanent exclusions from the borough’s primary and secondary schools in 2017/2018.

Around 70 per cent of the excluded students were from a “minority ethnic” background while over half were on free school meals.

The data, published by the Department for Education last month, revealed that Islington had the highest number of primary school pupils excluded for a second year in a row within inner London.

There were six primary school pupils permanently excluded, with two from Drayton Park Primary School, two from New North Academy and one each from Rotherfield Primary and Ambler Primary schools.

The Town Hall completed an investigation on the back of the high exclusion rates in April this year which concluded that “exclusion can be challenged by focusing on inclusion”.

They are currently making an action plan.

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, the council’s lead member for children, young people and families, said exclusions “should only ever be used as a last resort” and said they are calling on the government to enact “national policy changes” that would support children to remain in mainstream education.

She added: “Exclusion has serious negative consequences for young people and is rarely effective in managing behaviour.

“I am grateful to the council’s scrutiny committee for their work looking into how schools were using exclusions.

“We know that exclusion is a fairness issue.

“Schools should be a place where all children are supported to fulfil their potential.”

A City of London Corporation spokeswoman said “exclusions are falling and exam results are improving”, adding: “A new behaviour policy has made it clear that bullying, violence and criminal behaviour have no place in the academy.

“Permanent exclusion is always a last resort, and we will continue to do everything possible to ensure all our pupils are fully integrated with the school’s community.”

Ms Harding’s name was changed at her request.

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