During the summer, the Ministry of Justice published a report called ‘A Sporting Chance: An Independent Review of Sport in Youth and Adult Prisons’ by Professor Rosie Meek. You can access the report at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/733184/a-sporting-chance-an-independent-review-sport-in-justice.pdf
I have only just caught up with reading the report, but what struck me forcibly was the following paragraph:
Those in custody are likely to have disrupted and negative experiences of learning prior to incarceration, and to lack confidence in their learning abilities. A recent data-matching exercise between the Ministry of Justice and Department for Education* showed that of the young people sentenced to custody in 2014, 90% have a previous record of persistent absence from school and almost a quarter of those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody have been permanently excluded from school. In terms of achievement, only 1% of those sentenced to less than 12 months achieved 5 or more GCSES (or equivalents) graded A* – C including English and Maths. Furthermore, illustrating the over-representation of people who have been in both the care system and the criminal justice system, 31% of those sentenced to custody for 12 months or longer, and 27% of those sentenced to custody for less than 12 months had been in the care of a local authority.
* MoJ/DfE (2016). Understanding the Educational Background of Young Offenders: Joint Experimental Statistical Report from the Ministry of Justice and Department for Education.
There is a powerful message here to schools that don’t have a credible policy for dealing with their challenging pupils, other than excluding them from school. We need to work together for the good of society. The DfE needs to ensure there is a coherent curriculum, including English and mathematics, but not necessarily the rest of the English Baccalaureate for pupils that can use these subjects to retain their place as learners. There is a space for sport and other non-classroom based subjects in the curriculum.
The message that education is for all also needs to be firmly inculcated at the start of all teacher preparation courses. Perhaps the Secretary of State might like to break with tradition and issue a message of hope and encouragement to all starting on their journey to become a teacher this September. With his background on the Education Select Committee and work with the APPG, the Secretary of State is well placed to remind new entrants, and indeed the whole profession, of the need to provide as teachers and school leaders for the needs of all our young people.
Happily, we no longer lock up more than 3,000 under-18s, as was the case a decade ago, but even a thousand is too many. It is clear that finding ways of investing in all our young people can help reduce offending and alienation. As I have said before on this blog, a start could be made by ensuring all young people taken into care do not suffer a break in their education. A place on roll of an education institution within fourteen days of being taken into care should be the requirement for all and schools should be willing to cooperate.