The independent London newspaper

Austerity is the root cause of children drifting into crime

12 September, 2019

THE council’s children’s scrutiny committee took a welcome step on Monday – faltering though it may have been in places – towards tackling the growing scandal of “school exclusions”, thought by many to be a causal factor driving children towards crime.
It came just a few hours after one of the bloodiest episodes of street violence seen in the borough.

Experts agree that children, some still in primary school, once expelled from schools – whether for a few weeks or, worse, permanently – are at grave risk of drifting towards street life.

We campaigned last year for the committee to investigate the dangerously high number of expelled children, around 700 at the time, pointing out that there had been far too little analysis of the schools they attended, their gender and ethnicity – all missing pieces of crucial information.

So we welcome the first steps the committee has taken to put these figures under the microscope with evidence to be gathered by a panel before whom – we trust – parents, teachers, experts, as well as children themselves, will be able to piece together a picture of something that remains, in far too many instances, a hidden world.

Of course, committee members are not acting alone. The council has already allocated £500,000 towards the creation of programmes aimed at stopping the drift to crime among schoolchildren.

And the various steps being taken at schools such as Acland Burghley, Rhyl Street and Haverstock are all part of this picture.
Nor are educationists unaware of the crisis facing schools where resources are squeezed, teachers under far too much pressure, many leaving the profession, and where – as the teachers’ unions have demonstrated recently – violence towards the staff is becoming too common.

Some secondary schools and upper forms in the capital are introducing security checks – helped in some cases by “scanners” – to help combat knife crime.

But if education faces a crisis – and it does – local authorities and the political class that governs them must have the conviction and courage to confront one of its causes.

The villain is the destructive austerity policy pursued by both the coalition government of 2010 and today’s government. Until that is reversed, fundamentally, little will change.

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