For anyone who knows education in Glasgow, the story is lore.

Maureen McKenna, who went on to become education director in the city for 13 years, was a district inspector for Glasgow and had growing concerns about the numbers of young people she spotted hanging around the streets in school hours.

"We don't have to do school," one told her when she stopped to ask.

For Ms McKenna, the city's painfully poor figures on truanting and exclusions - as many as one-fifth of pupils not in school - was not good enough and change was vital.

Her mantra was simple: you have to be in school to be learning. This mantra will now form part of the backbone of Ms McKenna's strategy as the director-turned-consultant takes up a new role in London with its violence reduction unit (VRU).

Set up in 2019 and funded by the Mayor of London, the VRU has been working on a new approach to inclusion and nurturing in education - two cornerstones of Ms McKenna's work during her tenure in Glasgow.

The VRU is working on the principle that driving down school exclusions in the capital is vital as children with a history of suspension or exclusion from school are more likely to be affected by violence than those who don't.

It cites figures showing that while fewer than 1 in 200 children are permanently excluded from school, almost one in two of the prison population were excluded as children.

If there's one thing Glasgow learned during Ms McKenna's time in the driving seat it was that she does not suffer fools gladly - and pupils very quickly learned that, actually, they did have to do school.

So far the VRU has invested £2 million in an Inclusive and Nurturing Schools programme to be delivered by two charities in 70 primary and secondary schools in London.

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A new £4m programme has also be set up to help with early identification of special educational needs and interventions to support speech and communication skills in primary schools.

Part of the work also involves the development of a London Inclusion Charter that will be drafted with input from children and young people, parents and carers, schools, education specialists and local authorities.

Ms McKenna will work with the VRU and its Young People’s Action Group. A press release from Sadiq Khan's office describes the work thus: it will "galvanize action to fully support and prioritise inclusive practices and tackle stark disproportionalities seen in school exclusion and focus on equitable practices in areas such as school curriculums and anti-racism."

And for the layperson?

The idea is to use improvements to inclusion in schools to help tackle violence in communities.

READ MORE: Teacher reveals 'failings' in Glasgow east end school

Although there's no hard evidence to formally causate a link, when Glasgow schools reduced exclusions, youth crime fell in the city by 50% - although youth crime has fallen across Scotland.

Ms McKenna said: "I don't have a research data that says those two are linked, but they absolutely have to be and if we focused on empowering young people and enabling them to make better decisions, that is absolutely key and central to this.

"If we're able to have children understand that they have rights then they are able to manage themselves better, able to use the language of emotion better to manage themselves, that if they can do that better in schools, that they can do it better in the community."

It is, fittingly, full circle for Ms McKenna who spent a long time looking at the London Attainment Challenge and how that city had improved its education system in challenging circumstances.

She said: "There's a lovely circularity about it because when I started in Glasgow, I spent a lot of time looking at the London Attainment Challenge and looking at how they very successfully raised attainment in London.

"I took lots of lessons from that, and now they are looking to Glasgow to learn from some of the work around inclusion."

Ms McKenna has worked over several years with the London VRU after its director, Live Peck, came to Glasgow to see the work of its Scottish counterpart.

She was "sold on the model" after seeing best practice in Glasgow's schools.

There will need to be a significant scaling up of the work - "London is slightly bigger than Scotland', the former maths teacher jokes - and an acknowledgement that the challenges have similarities but also major differences.

"Obviously the violence there is different," Ms McKenna said. "What is different too is the black young men challenge but there's heaps of good practice going on in schools already.

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"It's important that we're inclusive in ethnic diversity and equally in the LGBTQ+ communities.

"My hope is to work between the VRU and the education community, to look at how would we get the education community on side to be more inclusive."

There has been some pushback against the appointment - a personal attack in a prominent London political magazine, for one - but these are arguments Ms McKenna has heard before.

One fallacy, she says, about her approach is that she mandates for a zero exclusion policy - fixed-term exclusions dropped by 90 per cent in Glasgow over a period of 14 years - but this is not the case.

READ MORE: Exam results for young folk are no measure of success for life

She said: "I never set out to reduce exclusions. I set out to improve educational outcomes for children and you can only improve educational outcomes if they're in school and they're learning, therefore you have to be more inclusive.

"That's how the numbers dropped. I don't believe in zero exclusions. Staff have a right to be protected.

"When I was a depute in a school, I excluded young people. There are times when and also as director, you know, I've had conversations with schools.

"We've said no, that that line has been crossed, you need to exclude but it is about doing it for the right reasons."

There is already "amazing practice" going on in London schools but the education landscape is more fragmented than in Scotland due to the various types of governance arrangements such as academies, trusts and maintained schools.

Ms McKenna said: "We need to not think about exclusions and suspensions but actually go right back and say, 'How can we better support teachers in managing large classes?'

"Teenagers are an acquired taste, they're not easy. They're tricky.

"I love teenagers, they are such good fun. But it's not an easy job, being a teacher. And from a child's perspective, it's not an easy job either going across six and seven classes in a day, dealing with those different adults.

"It's hard. All those opportunities for a spark off are absolutely immense."

Performance measures will be something else she will be assessing, calling England's measures "narrow in their focus" and based on "myths" about Ofsted, the English equivalent to Education Scotland.

She said: "Part of this is also the mythbusting you know, I firmly believe improvement is possible.

"It's not about London doing what Glasgow did. What Glasgow has proved is you can do it. You can change lives through education.

"When I left HMIE they all laughed at me and told me that it would never be done.

"You can actually just get everybody facing in the same direction and make improvements."

She is confident that the willing is there from teaching staff, likening attitudes among teachers as being similar to Glasgow in that: "You don't come to London to teach because it's an easy shift."

Ms McKenna added: "You come because you want to make a difference to communities. So the people I've met are totally committed to their communities and working with diverse families.

"You know, that's just that was exactly the same as Glasgow."

Ms McKenna refers to the work of educationalists Paul Dix and his approach When The Adults Change, as well as Dave Whittaker and the Kindness Principle, both focused on inclusion and trauma informed practice.

Professional development, she adds, is vital to "give teachers structure and lines in the sand" when using these therapeutic approaches.

The approach is not always popular and recently teachers at Bannerman High School in Glasgow's east end went out on strike over what they said is an unsafe environment in the school.

A whistleblower, speaking exclusively to The Herald, described how restorative justice practices in Bannerman and a refusal to take staff concerns seriously had made the secondary a violent and unpredictable place to work.

Ms McKenna said: "I used to get a hard time people would say oh, you're just allowing bad behaviour. I'm not allowing bad behaviour, actually you need to have higher expectations for school communities to thrive.

"All the way the way through I have stuck rigidly to never, never go for zero exclusions because there are always times when for a child's safety or the safety of other children that you need to exclude and teachers have rights too.

"It's just about getting that balance right."

Asked about the situation at Bannerman and whether the balance between protecting young people and ensuring staff safety had been off, she said: "No, I don't think it is actually, because in Bannerman, there is huge investment in professional learning.

"The school has worked with an external company to work alongside teachers to give them the structure, to give them the scripts, the way to work together.

"Bannerman also is gifted with a long standing enhanced provision for young people who have been assessed as having a language or a communication need.

"They're effectively double staffed.

"The school has persevered and they've worked with the union and and the council has worked with the union."

Ms McKenna is also in talks with Unicef about the organisation's work in schools on the UNHCR Rights of the Child and embedding that in the curriculum, in a similar vein to work in schools in Scotland.

She said: "The rights respecting school award provides a nice scaffolded way in which to bring in children's rights and give children a voice and have them lead.

"It contributes to their literacy development, to their thinking, to their debating. In London it's appropriate because of the global communities they are serving."