Monday, November 05, 2007

Clear Blue/Red Water......

I awoke this morning to the news of the government's "radical" (their word not mine) approach to tackling the perennial problem of NEETs (those young people Not in Education Employment or Training) force them to stay in prison, whoops sorry, school until they are 18! Is this the same Gordon Brown advocating this who apparently advocates votes at 16? So we will accept that at 16 you are old enough to pay taxes, join the army, get married and maybe vote..........but not decide your future for yourself? And, if you decide you would rather will be sent directly to jail, whoops, sorry, fined but not sent to jail. You will however have a criminal record. Hmmm, so, you are not at school, you are not at work, but you are going to pay a fine. Now that is a well thought out policy if ever I heard one!

So I was particularly pleased to read Nick Robinson drawing attention to the important role youth work can have in re-engaging young people. I have said elsewhere that I left teaching and went into youth work because I was interested in learning. This is a little tongue in cheek, but there is an element of truth. School IS a prison for many of our young people. It teaches them to hate learning rather than see it as something that is life enhancing. How on earth does Ed Balls think criminalising young people who are already marginalised is going to help? I am reminded of a young woman I worked with who hated school. She was regularly self-harming. Her mother would put her on the bus to school and she wouldn't get there. Mum (living on benefits on her own with other children) was desperate, she had done all she could do, she ended up in court, being fined because her child wasn't at school...... I tried to talk to the inclusion unit at the County Council.......what this young woman needed was time out. Couldn't she have it? Couldn't they just accept that maybe with time away she would eventually come round? NO.

On another occasion I was doing a piece of research and interviewed a young man of 17 I was working with, someone who was constantly in trouble with the police. My first question was, "what was the worst thing that ever happened to you?" his response was "school". At the end of my questioning I asked, "If there was one thing you could change about your life what would it be?" His answer? "I'd go back to school." We have to structure our education system around our children, not the other way round. It hasn't worked and it won't work. Our education system is fine for the many but a nightmare for the few.

I have personal experience. My son struggled with school. When he dropped out I had to hold my nerve, after all, I did the same thing and ran away to join the army at least he didn't do that! Now, he is back, doing his A levels (even politics, imagine how pleased his mum is about that!) I dread to think what would have happened if he had been forced to stay on until he was 18.

Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut invariably fails. The key to this problem is not enforcement it is engagement. But, sadly, given their record, I doubt this government, who have not got it in the past, will get it now.

No comments: