Yong people being successful

This summer, I have been able to witness some amazing activities by young people from across Oxfordshire. In this blog I would like to mention three groups and the adults that have supported them. All have to a greater or lesser extent funding from official sources, but need to rely upon volunteers as well, including the goodwill of parents. They represent but the tip of an iceberg of what takes place.

At the end of the school summer term I attended various concerts put on by the County Music Service, and at the end of the month I will be attending a welcome back concert by the OSO. This orchestra is considered to be Oxfordshire’s “training” orchestra, with students going on to play in the OSSO, OYWO and OCYO. Next year the most senior of these orchestra is planning on playing Mahler’s First Symphony. That would be a magnificent achievement for the orchestra and the County Music Service. Their other achievement this year, of buddying children with SEND of all descriptions with other young people to create a truly memorable music experience, broke new boundaries.

The National Citizen Service hasn’t always had a good press, but the on the ground activities help create a sense of teamwork and allow young people to achieve more than they thought themselves capable. I was privileged to be asked to judge the projects by five of the teams from among the 700 young people taking part in the five discrete programmes this summer in Oxfordshire. These programmes also involved the use of 200 staff to support the courses. Included in the programme was supporting and fund-raising for charitable activities. Alongside support for the homeless and the local hospital charity were campaigns to support young carers; those with brain injuries and a project to map unisex toilets that can be used by those identifying as of transgender. I witnessed two of the teams staffing a stall in the local market place as a means of raising funds. In 2018, more than £43,000 was raised by NCS group activities. It is still early to say how much will be raised in 2109, but again young people came together to work on a project and learn a range of skills.

Yester, I attended the open day for the Oxfordshire Battalion of the Army Cadet Force summer camp. Despite atrocious weather, youngsters from 13 to 19 were participating in a range of activities albeit with a military theme. The dedication of all concerned was clear to see and the Battalion in Oxfordshire is clearly in good spirits. However, I wonder whether the MoD pays the same attention to the ACF s it does to the Combined Cadet Force or CCF that is mostly located in our independent schools? In this day and age youth activities by the MoD must not be organised so that one is the route for potential officers and the other for other ranks. That might have worked in the days after World War 2 when the tri-partite system of education prevailed, but would look extremely out of date these days. Bringing pupils from both sectors to work together, especially in a county lie Oxfordshire with so many intendent schools, might dispel any such notion. Larger numbers might also help attract those interested in understanding the range of activities of our defence forces and the skills they need.

So, my thanks to all that give up their time for these and other organisations working with young people. We just need to ensure that there is also a proper youth service that can support others, such as young carers that often cannot find the time to join in these types of activities.

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More facts about the teaching profession

Those of my generation will remember the verse from the folk song about ‘where have all the young men gone?’ Written by the great Peter Seeger in the 1950s and, so Wikipedia informs me, based on a Cossack song and an Irish lumberjack tune, it became one of the most covered and well known of political folk songs of its generation.

I was reminded of the line when looking through the detailed tables in the DfE’s Workforce Statistics for 2018, published earlier today. Among men under the age of 25 there are just 3,159 working as classroom teachers in secondary schools across England compared with 2,005 working as classroom teachers in the primary sector.  Surprisingly, that’s better than a generation ago. In March 1997, the DfE recorded just 900 male primary school teachers under the age of 25 and 2,070 in that age group working as teachers in secondary schools. So, net gains all round and proportionally more so in the primary sector.

However, if you also look at the 45-49 age grouping for the number of men working as classroom teachers, the numbers are dramatically lower. In the primary sector, down from 8,215 classroom teachers to just 2,053, and in the secondary sector, from 23,602 to just 7,882, in the years between 1997 and 2018. Overall male teacher numbers fell from 31,000 to 25,311 in the primary sector between 1997 and 2018, and in the secondary sector from 90,100 to 64,513 during the same period.

The differences at more senior levels are not as easy to discover as less attention was paid in the 1990s to the gender of head teachers. However, I suspect that men have more than held their own in head teacher appointments, especially in the secondary sector, where women still from only a minority of the nation’s head teachers.

The proportion of non-White teachers in the profession remains small, especially in the more senior leadership posts. Whereas some 15% of classroom teachers are not White British, along with 10.3% of assistant and deputy heads, and some seven per cent of head teachers, these numbers fall if White Irish and other teachers classified by the DfE as from ‘any other white background’ are included. BAME percentages fall to less than 10% of classroom teachers and little more than four per cent of head teachers. Many are, I suspect, located only in a few distinct parts of England.

Overall numbers of entrants to the profession were static in 2018 compared with 2017, but this masked a fall in full-time entrants that was balanced by an increase in part-time entrants. The number of full-time entrants was at the lowest level since 2011, and must be some cause for concern, especially with the secondary school pupil population on the increase. Also of concern is the fact that the percentage of entrants under the age of 25 was at its lowest percentage since before 2011, when the workforce Census started, at 26.4% of entrants.

The profession cannot afford to lose any of its youngest teachers. A future post will look at trends in the retention of teachers.

 

Memories

The Secretary of State for Education has been sharing the idea of bucket lists for primary school children with a national newspaper. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6417919/Childrens-bucket-list-inspired-new-Education-Secretary.html

I found this a particularly poignant story to read today, as I have just returned from the annual presentation of the Safe Drive: Stay Alive campaign to local sixth formers and college students. I didn’t see understanding why road safety or indeed any type of safety is important and how to deal with an emergency in the bucket list, but it should be there, even for primary age children.

The presentation I witnessed this morning, even viewing it for the fourth year in a row as a county councillor, moves me to tears every time that I attend the event. Pupils are taken through a video sequence of a group of young people going to a party in two cars. There is a crash and what happens next is narrated through simple and compelling testimony by emergency staff from the ambulance; fire and the police services, plus an A&E doctor, a parent and a survivor. Finally, there is a video of a prisoner serving a prison sentence for causing death by careless driving.

The images in the video are nowhere near as powerful as the spoken words. Here, a thousand words really does convey more than a single picture, however horrific the image. Sadly, three young people have died on the roads of Oxfordshire so far in 2018, not always their fault. Speed, drink, drugs, a lack of road knowledge and poor weather can affect the driving of anyone and lead to a fatality.

Most young people understand the message about not drinking and driving, but distracting the driver can be just as dangerous. Bucket lists are a great idea for selecting the positive things we want to do in life, but they must not crowd out the time to reflect upon the fact that as human being we live in social groups and have responsibilities to ourselves and others.

This is not the post to discuss whether there is appropriate funding for road and other safety learning for children and young people, but thank the emergency and other services that pick up the pieces when these event happen. The line of helmets on the table at the front of the hall today was a reminder of the teamwork involved and that message is powerfully reinforced by a crutch from a survivor paralysed for life and the flowers for the young person that didn’t come home and never will again.

So let’s encourage young people to climb trees, bake gingerbread and do the many other things Damian Hinds writes about, some of which I have never thought of doing, but let us also remember the purpose of life is not just self-fulfilment, important as that may be, but also because, as John Donne wrote, ‘no man is an island’, we need to learn to understand the consequences of our actions.

An accident of birth

There is an interesting parliamentary procedure called a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ that allows MPs to raise subjects they deem to be important, but that are not currently part of the legislative process. In some ways it is like a junior version of a Private Members’ Bill, but with even less chance of success.

Yesterday, a Bill was presented in the House of Commons with support from all three of the main political parties in England. This was the Criminal Records (Childhood Offences) Bill, presented by its sponsor, the Conservative MP, Theresa Villiers.

In her speech about the aims of the Bill, Teresa Villiers said,

‘A key problem is that we have no distinct criminal records system for children. Apart from some limited differences providing for slightly shorter rehabilitation periods and other timeframes, children are subject to the full rigours of the disclosure system that I have outlined. Records relating to under-18 offences are retained for life. I believe that the childhood criminal records system in England and Wales is anchoring children to their past and preventing them from moving on from their mistakes. It is acting as a barrier to employment, education and housing. It is therefore working against rehabilitation, undermining a core purpose of the youth justice system. The current rules also perpetuate inequality. The Government’s race disparity audit concluded that ​children from a black and minority ethnic background are sadly more likely to end up with a criminal record. A system that is unduly penal in its treatment of such records has a harder and more disproportionate effect on BME communities. Similar points can be made about children who have spent time in care.’ https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-10-10/debates/1205F56C-ECAF-4272-81F7-BA1E629CA816/CriminalRecords(ChildhoodOffences)

I entirely agree. In September 2009, almost a decade ago, I wrote a piece for the TES in my regular column at that time. It was headed 93,601 – the number of 10-17 year olds gaining their first criminal record. https://www.tes.com/news/93601-number-10-17-year-olds-gaining-first-criminal-record

In that TES piece, I pointed out that some 700,000 young people gained a criminal record between 2000 and early 2008; not including those handed a caution or other out of court disposal. Fortunately, attitudes to dealing with petty offending have moved on from the days of Labour’s target culture and in 2016-17 there were just 49,000 proceedings against young people either in a court or by way of cautions for an admitted offence. This is still way too high, but half the level of a decade ago. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/676072/youth_justice_statistics_2016-17.pdf

Those children from a decade ago are now adults, but as I said in 2009, and Theresa Villier’s Bill sought to highlight, they carry the stigma of being an offender with them into their adult life. Not only must they declare it on an enhanced disclosure for a job as say, a teacher, but it can also affect their ability to travel to some countries that require visas, such as the United States.

My solution was that any summary offence, and most either way offences, including theft, should be removed from the record after a period of say five years free of offending.

I hope that the government will find time to either insert a clause in an appropriate piece of legislation or take up this Ten Minute Rule Bill and provide parliamentary time for it to proceed. Carrying a criminal record for the rest of your life should not be a matter of when you were born, but of the severity of your criminal behaviour.

Upturn in average number of young people in custody

There has been a small but disappointing increase in the average number of young people up to the age of 18 being held in custody over the past eighteen months. Although the figures from April 2016 to February this year are provisional, they show the first upturn in annual average numbers held in detention since 2007/08. The provisional number for 2017/18 to February was 996 compared with 3,208 in 2007/08 and an all-time high since 2000 of 3,235 reached in 2005/06 at the height of the New Labour Target Culture when young people were being criminalised at an alarming rate. The data is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/youth-custody-data

Sadly, with the increase in knife violence witnessed recently, I suspect that the average number of young people in custody will only continue to increase over the short-term. Youngster from London make up by far the largest number from any one region, accounting for a quarter of the total of young people locked up in February 2018. By contrast, only 25 young people from Wales and 32 from the South West were being held in custody.

The change in policy on remands in custody for young people some years ago means that in February this year only 216, or about 20% of the total population in youth custody, were on remand. That may well still be too high a number, but there are still some serious crimes where custody following charge may be inevitable for public protection. If you add the total serving sentences for serious offences that will likely transfer into the adult prison estate when they are old enough to the remand population this group totals about 500 of the 870 under 18s in custody. There are fewer than 400 of this age group on Detention and Training Orders, almost the lowest number since well before 2000.

Only 28 of the under-18s in custody were classified as female, down from a peak of 241 in August 2007. This is approaching a 90% reduction, a percentage not achieved for the adult female prison population during the same period. Proportionally the number of BAME (Asian, Black, Mixed and Other) young people in custody has not declined in line with the reduction in the number recorded as White, so that in February 2018 there were 470 young people in custody classified as White and 385 as BAME compared with 1,754 White and 778 BAME in custody in August 2008.

The Youth Justice Board had not commissioned any bed space in the Eastern Region and only had nine custody bed spaces in use in the North East Region.  The 137 beds in the London Region are almost certainly not enough to allow young people to be kept in custody close to home. The same will almost certainly be true for the small number of young women in custody. Regular visits are very important to those in custody and their families and this can be a real issue now that numbers in custody are so much lower than a decade ago.

We must aim to ensure numbers in custody are as low as possible and that sentence lengths take into account the mental and physical age of the young person committing the crime as well as the seriousness of the offence. Ensuring their continued education and training and mental well-being are also important factors to take into account while in custody.

 

 

 

Supporting music for young people

Over the weekend I attended two charity events in the music world. In many ways they were a microcosm of society today and reflected some ofthe wide divisions even in a city such as Oxford. Saturday’s event was in aid of The Young Women’s Music Project (YWMP). This is an  educational charity that is described in their own words as offering twice-monthly free workshops for women aged 14-21, which provide an inclusive and supportive space for young women to make music together, learn new skills, express themselves, and grow in confidence.  In their music workshops, they make and record music, plan and hold gigs and events, and discuss relevant issues affecting young people. YWMP is trans inclusive.

YWMP also brings cutting-edge projects, gigs, exhibitions and talks to Oxford in high profile institutions such as Modern Art Oxford, the Ashmolean Museum, and the Pitt Rivers Museum, in partnerships with hospitals, schools, and organizations for vulnerable young people such as VIP+ and Readipop. The projects helps young people to challenge issues affecting them in a creative and productive way, such as class, race, sexuality, gender, mental health, and consent. Their web site can be found at: http://www.ywmp.org.uk/about

YWMP’s event was a supper evening in Silvie, a bakery café on Oxford’s Iffley Road. (https://www.facebook.com/Silvie-1089930287738590/) and included poetry and music from some of the young women the charity has helped. This is a small scale charity working with many young women for whom music can matter, where creating performing or supporting on the technical side. The last is a space still mainly occupied by men.

Sunday night’s venue was on the other side of the city at Lincoln College. The college were hosts of a concert by young, and in one case very young, musicians sponsored by the charity, Awards for Young Musicians. This charity aims to help by supporting those with a talent for music, but not the financial wherewithal to be able to develop their potential. Three musicians with a collective age of just 37 and supported by the charity entertained the invited audience with a variety of classical music pieces. One of the players lives on the Isle of Wight and travels every Saturday to the Royal College of Music, a roundtrip of seven hours every Saturday, and this on top of his practice time. (www.a-y-m.org.uk). A different audience, two very different settings, but a common theme.

Both charities are well worthy of support and are trying to keep alive the great tradition of music for all our young people and not to restrict it just to those whose families can afford it. Music was one of the great success stories of the post 1944 Education Act world in which I received my education. However, ever since the 1990s, music in schools has been under an increasing threat of being marginalised. This is despite the recognition of the importance of the arts in schools that occurred when the National Curriculum was first introduced.

The present utilitarian Philistines of Sanctuary Buildings that have devised the EBacc seemingly have no real feeling for the arts in schools. The loss of cash to local authorities in favour of schools and academies has also not done music any favours, as disorganised MATs and stand- alone academies are more of challenge to persuade to work together on developing extra-curricular activities in areas such as music than in the days when the value of central funding for music services was fully recognised as a valuable part of State education in England. Hence, today, the importance of charities such as the two highlighted here. There are, of course, many others. But, if you are interested in supporting music for young people these are two I am happy to commend to your attention.

 

 

Fewer children in secure units

Data from the DfE shows a fall in the number of children held in secure units at the end of March 2015 (SRF 15/2015). Now one must always be wary of figures for a single date because there may have been fluctuations during the year in the overall numbers. However, by comparing the same date over time it is clear that the number of children being held in secure units, especially as a result of an interaction with the criminal justice system, is on a downward trend. In 2010, 161 children were detailed after coming into contact with the criminal justice system in one way or another. By 2015 that number was down to 117 with a further 88 children placed in secure accommodation on welfare grounds. Of these 82 were children from England and six were children from Wales.

An encouraging sign is that the number of young children below the age of sixteen in secure accommodation at the census date has fallen over recent years. Although this number is still too high, it does seem to be going in the right direction. The number of 16 and 17 year olds in secure accommodation has increased. There needs to be some understanding of whether this is because of the actions of the courts, and the Youth Court in particular, or whether it is due to some local authorities resorting to a short period in secure accommodation for young people at risk of exploitation.

Indeed, the use of secure accommodation on welfare grounds may well be worth re-visiting. Is there any evidence that it can actually make a difference to lock up a teenager for say a month. Does it break their habits or do they return to the behaviour that caused concern as soon as they leave the secure accommodation?

Of course, these are figures for young people in secure accommodation as a result of the actions of the State. There are others that find themselves in confinement as a result of being trafficked by adults that have no concerns for their welfare, but merely see them as objects with a commercial value. Even after the recent series of trials in the courts it seems unlikely that the exploitation of young people, both girls and boys, for commercial gain through sexual activities has stopped.

Indeed, the prosecution of historic cases must not deny the resources of both the police and local authorities to following up current cases. In this respect schools have a vital part to play in identifying patterns of behaviour that may lead to a child becoming at risk of exploitation. Whatever academies and their sponsors may think of local authorities, they have a duty to cooperate in monitoring and reporting pupils at risk. There is a concern that some of these children are regarded as a nuisance by some schools and placed on an alternative education programme that may have far less hours of tuition than a normal school day. If that is the case then, out of sight must not mean out of mind.