Being in the wrong place at the wrong time in one of London's most dangerous areas can be deadly. In Croydon, local services have been decimated, and the local council has effectively declared bankruptcy. It's in this environment that children carry

"Jaden" received a knife wound a couple of weeks ago while walking the streets of Croydon in South London. Fortunately, it wasn't serious, but a week later, he was arrested for carrying his own knife.

The remarkable thing is that Jaden (not his real name) is only 13 years old.

He appears to be a quiet boy dressed in black sports pants and a dark coat with the hood pulled over his head. He carries a bag over his shoulder and constantly checks his phone.

When asked about the knife injuries, he pauses for a moment and then says, "Wrong place, wrong time."

Welcome to Croydon, one of the most dangerous areas in the capital for a child. Here, the combination of being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be lethal.

Local services have been decimated in Croydon, with the local council effectively declaring bankruptcy.

There is another significant issue affecting Jaden's life. This year, he hasn't attended school at all, putting him in great danger, says James Watkins, a youth worker.

"I think a lot of the older gang members target young people who have stopped going to school because they see them as vulnerable," he explains.

"Sometimes young people just need to feel like they belong, and because they've been expelled from school, they feel almost cast out from society and can become an easy target."

More black Caribbean pupils are excluded from school than members of any other ethnic group. In 2021/22, 44% of all exclusions were black Caribbean pupils, despite them making up just over 10% of the school population. This is a similar figure on a national scale.

Official data shows that excluded children rarely return to mainstream school. They are thrown onto the sidelines of an already overloaded education system.

Like most excluded children, Jaden ended up in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) - a separate school for teenagers who cannot find a regular school. He was excluded from two PRUs.

This group of children is at risk of disappearing from the system altogether, often referred to as "ghost children."

But demand for PRUs is high, and places can be hard to come by, says Nicola Peters from the Youth Rights and Expansion Project.

"The situation is getting worse by the day, and I don't think it's going to get better," she says. "Demand is growing rapidly, and the number of excluded children just keeps growing and growing.

"Pupil Referral Units are popping up everywhere, and we can't take all the excluded children.

"The education system for these children is falling apart. For many of them, school is outdated and no longer meets their needs."