Correlation doesn’t equal Causation
The Prison Reform Trust argued recently for criminal leniency of children in care. I want to draw a comparison with the fate of students excluded from school.
Lord Laming who undertook the report, gave one example of the police being called because a child in care had taken food from a fridge without permission.
This story horrified me; I look at my kids who have all done much worse and weep at the idea of them in the care system if my husband and I died. Statistically I know they’re likely to be separated as there are four of them; I know my son at 14 will be the hardest to place and having identical twins, they’d be kept together surely? But if they weren’t, the separation would be doubly damaging, so strong is their bond.
I also know if one of them had SEN it would place further pressure on the care system and any behaviour issues would be dealt with more severely than we would at home. My goodness, if it’s food out the fridge; I may as well have 999 on speed dial.
A criminal record for children in care, Lord Laming argued is assuring a future burden on society.
47% (although probably a higher proportion as this includes non care system kids) of children, if excluded, are likely to end up in prison. This is the percentage of the prison population who have been permanently excluded from school. It doesn’t necessarily mean that those 47% wouldn’t end up in prison anyway and that schools may have done everything they could to prevent the exclusion but with rising exclusions I fear we are criminalising children.
The label of being permanently excluded is as damaging as the criminal record Lord Laming criticises. He’s not asking these to be lifted for dangerous criminals but for the petty instances, allowing care children the best start in adult life. Similarly, the majority of exclusions are for ‘persistent, disruptive behaviour’ and from year 9. How were these children presenting in schools up until the age of 13?
Many excluded children have:
witnessed domestic violence
been sexually abused
been physically abused
There is a similar pattern of experiences for prisoners and to combine trauma with SEN such as language and literacy difficulties among the prison community we are clearly not identifying difficulties and experiences early enough leading to exclusions and then prison.
We may not see these children as victims and neither will society when they have a criminal record and permanent exclusion stamped on their forehead before the age of 16. Can’t we do better for these kids? Find models known to work and replicate them? These children matter and are society’s responsibility.
http://troublesofyouth.pbworks.com/f/occ71-exclusion.pdf (75% of excluded pupils end up with a criminal conviction)