Becoming a ‘Zero Exclusion City’

Bristol's Youth Mayors, Jeremiah Dom-Ogbonna (left) and Anika Mistry (centre), standing in the Mayor's Office with Mayor Marvin Rees. Behind them, books and awards are visible on shelves.
Today’s guest blog is by Anika Mistry and Jeremiah Dom-Ogbonna, Bristol’s Youth Mayors

Over the past few years, with the disruption of the pandemic, we as a nation have been reminded of the significance of education and know that it is crucial to children and young people. This is not only for our personal and academic development but also for our happiness and wellbeing.

However, for some students, school feels like a prison, where often the decision for an exclusion from school isn’t justifiable and concerns have been raised about the link between exclusions and race, where institutional racism could be a factor. We feel that we all should take action and campaign for Bristol to become a ‘Zero Exclusion City’, where our schools understand and respect young people and make them feel appreciated and valued, both in and out of school. 

What does it mean to be a ‘Zero Exclusion City’?

It means to be a city that doesn’t give up on young people. A city that sees the best in our young people, even in the moments where they don’t see it themselves. A city where all young people are given a chance to be who they want to be. A city where young people aren’t written off before their stars shine brighter than they ever could imagine. We want young people to be appreciated and feel that they have support when they need it rather than becoming isolated.

We’ve seen too many stories where young people have been put into Isolation – short and long term – where this isn’t warranted. This isn’t ok. A situation that should have been easily resolved, by just speaking and letting the students know their wrongdoing, has escalated leading to irreconcilable damage, not just to their education, but to their future as a whole.

What is the prize of being a ‘Zero Exclusion City’?

It means that we set the pace for others to follow, we are the example for other cities all over the UK. It means that we see young people who are less likely to go down the wrong path, to be able to access all that life has for them. This consequently leads to more young people who can have more of a stable environment for them to develop in regard to their education, away from all the vices that are a constant afterthought in many communities across the UK.

Already, the One City Plan, written by the city, aims that, by 2030, Bristol is in the top quarter of Local Authorities in England for school inclusion and attendance, and where restorative approaches are put in place as a first response to conflict management in schools. By 2034, Bristol aims for schools in our city to have fully implemented a zero-exclusion policy. As co-chair of the One City Children & Young People Board, Jeremiah is working to help develop and deliver this work.

What does this mean for young people?

This means that young people are offered support when it is seen they’re going off track, instead of negative and overactive discipline. It means that young people are in the classroom, learning, which is the most integral thing. Teachers who are better placed to understand their students better. And most of all, we have young people who truly are global citizens, doing their part to make the world a better place.

Sometimes young people are criticised; sometimes we are humiliated; and sometimes it may feel like school just isn’t able to accommodate us despite trying our best, even though teachers may not realise it. Bristol is a place of community, inclusion, and respect, where everyone is valued. As Bristol’s Youth Mayors, we want to work towards a city where school exclusions both permanent and short-term shouldn’t occur. We would love it if you could help us with this, to share our proposal and encourage others to reduce and get rid of exclusion – to make Bristol into a ‘Zero Exclusion City’. A city that doesn’t give up on young people; that sees the best in everyone and a city that ensures young people have the opportunity to let their stars shine. 

To get in contact with the Youth Mayors, contact and follow us @BristolYMayors, @AnikaYouthMayor and @OgbonnaDom.