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Monday, 20 August 2007

Lost Boys

Trevor Phillips today highlighted the problems of youth crime and the prevalence of violence amongst black males. He reported that 12% of the prison population are black, compared with 2% of the general population, and discussed issues like family breakdown and educational under achievement that make up the vicious spiral to a life of crime.

Last week the Bow Group published research on the underachievment of boys at school, by Chris Skidmore, on which I wrote a comment piece in the Telegraph. (Read my opinion piece here) The findings are shocking:

It demonstrates the challenge we face in engaging all our boys in education. Over a quarter of all boys don't get a single good GCSE, a fifth of boys aged 14 have a reading age of half their years, and just 36% of boys stay on to take A levels, compared with 44% of girls.

But it is when it comes to the discipline statistics that you begin to see why youth crime is such a problem amongst young men. In the latest exclusion figures, boys accounted for around three quarters of all suspensions and expulsion, and over half of all permanent exclusions were of boys between 12-14 years old.

The report also showed that on the free-school-meals measure at least, white males on free school meals face some of the greatest challenges at school: Of all white boys eligible for free school meals, only 37% get the expected level at Key Stage 3 English, compared with 57% of girls. And on this measure, 46% of black boys on FSM and 50% of Asian boys on FSM reach the expected standard in KS3.

Trevor Phillip's report is timely and important. Youth crime is one of the most worrying issues facing us today. Educational achievement, crime and life-chances are all integrally connected, and at the moment, boys and young men at school, from across the ethnic spectrum, are losing out because they are not engaged with the kind of education we are offering. A more practically engaged curriculum which is less wrapped up in cotton wool, more competitive sport and a less politically correct environment that says competition is a dirty word are the kind of changes we should be looking at.

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