In the Media

Response: School exclusions played a part in this summer's riots

PUBLISHED November 9, 2011

The evidence is clear ? those who miss out on education have limited life chances You report on official figures that show more than 85% of those convicted in the aftermath of the London riots were not, in fact, gang members ( Gangs did not play central role in riots, inquiry finds , 25 October). As you state, "This analysis contrasts sharply with the picture presented ... by [the work and pensions secretary] Iain Duncan Smith, when he said gangs played 'a significant part' in the riots." The article then asks, quite rightly, who were the rioters? Although you acknowledge that "those arrested mainly came from deprived areas and had the poorest educational backgrounds", in my view the one statistic we should all be concerned about is that "one-third had been excluded from school in the past year". This startling figure gives a real insight into a future where more and more young people lose out on education altogether. Other statistics have shown that 40% of UK prisoners have been temporarily or permanently excluded from school. These facts are no surprise to those of us who work to help struggling teenagers on a daily basis. My experience is that outcomes in all areas ? including criminal justice, health and employment ? are considerably worse for those who have been excluded from school. It is clear that education is key. But putting the focus on education does not mean stretching our overcrowded schools and overworked teachers even further. What is needed to keep our children in school is the right level of support from those with expertise in dealing with challenging young people and getting them on the right track. Teachers can often identify which of their students are at risk of exclusion: the ones always absent from class, or not following the lessons, or those whose frustration is played out in anger, or even violence. The article also informs us that "more than two-thirds of the young people involved were classed as having special educational needs". This can cover a whole host of issues which can lead to young people becoming disengaged from mainstream education. Our charity works with young people who have trouble communicating, those who have issues at home, and others who are falling behind academically. A young girl we worked with had an absent father and a mother with an alcohol abuse problem. The girl used cannabis, which resulted in her being excluded from school. Once we built up a relationship with her, we could help her make the link between having no qualifications and not getting on the course she wanted to do at college. A last-ditch intervention from us helped this teenager, but many others like her are losing out on education. Exclusion is not the answer: struggling teenagers need one-to-one face-time with people who are genuinely able to help. The statistics on the looters prove beyond doubt that educational attainment is a key indicator of other life outcomes. If we want to know how to prevent another wave of riots, the answer is to go back to school. Schools UK riots Crime Gangs Young people Charities Steph Taylor © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds