We hear much at present about gangs recruiting adolescents who have been expelled from school or who are truanting from school. These are the foot soldiers of the criminal gangs behind knife violence and drug dealing. They are often relatively innocent parties whose lives are ruined.
Yesterday a friend reminded me how he had taken on youngsters who had proved difficult in school and provided them with jobs alongside adults who taught them the disciplines of life at work and helped them to grow up. Now he is unable to do this. Increasing bureaucracy and concerns with health and safety means that there is nothing useful such young people can do and what had been a welcome opportunity for them is no more. Incarcerated in schools with other disgruntled adolescents they make each other worse and teachers are leaving the profession faster than they can be recruited. As one of my friend’s recruits had put it to his teachers, “If you don’t like the way I behave why do you insist that I come to school?”
This nonsense has been inflicted upon a whole generation of unfortunate young people now. Apprenticeships are fine for some eighteen year-olds but some teenagers will not get there. They need an opportunity to start growing up, away from other troubled and troublesome youngsters, alongside adults with real adult responsibilities and adult discipline, at fourteen, and employers should be allowed to take them on, for everyone’s sake.
This is not new. On July 21st 2000 I wrote in The Times Educational Supplement – Social inclusion – Schools can be just like prison. Read this at: https://www.peterinson.net/social-inclusion/
On November 15th 2006, in The Guardian – Work ethics – I asked whether in fact compulsory schooling is socially excluding some youngsters: https://www.peterinson.net/work-ethics/