At the beginning of August, the DfE together with the Ministry of Justice, published what is described as ‘a joint experimental statistics report’ on ‘Understanding the educational background of young offenders’. The report makes depressing, but possibly not unexpected reading. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/understanding-the-educational-background-of-young-offenders-summary-report
The results are from a data sharing project between the DfE and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), conducted in 2015. The analysis is of those young offenders sentenced in 2014 matched to DfE data.
Not all young people with the observed characteristics either offend or, if offending, are sentenced to one or more periods of custody. There is no causal relationship between any lack of education progress and offending, but those that offend are more likely than not to have below average educational outcomes regardless of their actual ability.
This lack of educational progress, although apparent by the end of Key Stage 2 for the cohort studied in this exercise, is magnified when students reach secondary school. The largest gap between the outcome for all pupils and those that became young offenders was in ‘writing’ at Key Stage 2 and the smallest gap was in ‘reading at this Key Stage.
By Key Stage4, although the majority of young offenders in the study did achieve a pass in something at Key Stage 4, no more than 7% of young person sent into custody achieved 5 A*-Cs including English and mathematics, using the grading then in place for these subjects. The most depressing figure is that just one per cent of the 399 individuals sent into a short period of custody achieved the 5 A*-Cs outcome including English and mathematics.
A third of young offenders receiving custody of longer than twelve months when age 16 or 17 on their sentence date were ‘looked after children’ on the 31st March 2014.
Even more depressing is the very high percentages of young offenders with a record of persistent absence from school, presumably mostly in their secondary school careers. Apart from those sentenced to Referral Orders and Cautions that are likely to be first time entrants into the criminal justice system, all other categories had more than 90% of the group with a record of persistent absence, peaking at 94% for those with custodial sentences of less than six months. This group also top the percentage that had been subject to a permanent exclusion.
At the period this study was undertaken ‘off-rolling’ and home educating of Key Stage 4 pupils was not a significant feature of secondary schools. However, it would be interesting to know the percentage of young people ‘off-rolled’ that enter the criminal justice system at the present time.
Schools and colleges are currently facing financial challenges, and it is worrying that the figures in this report come from a period when schools were better, even if not adequately, funded.
Interestingly, this report does not include either regional data or data about the ethnicity of the offenders. One can assume, however, that most are young men as the number of young women sent into custody is generally very low.
Hopefully, this report will inspire the new Ministerial team in the DfE to address how the education of this group of young people can be improved and the use of custody reduced.