Almost half of secondary school pupils in England, Scotland and
Wales have broken the law at some stage of their lives, according
to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, writes
Nearly one in four 15 and 16-year-old boys said they had carried
a knife or other weapon during the past year, and almost one in
five admitted attacking someone with the intention of hurting them
seriously. Nearly four out of 10 of all young people agreed it was
“alright to beat people up if they start the fight”.
Vandalism, shoplifting and other less serious property crimes
were committed by a significant minority of girls as well as boys,
and this type of offending peaked among 14 and 15-year-olds where a
third of students said they had committed criminal damage and a
quarter reported shoplifting in the past year.
Serious property crimes such as burglary and car theft were less
common and predominantly admitted by boys. Ten per cent of boys
aged 15 and 16 said they had broken into a building to steal during
the previous year including 4 per cent who reported doing so three
or more times.
The survey of 14,000 secondary school students also reveals that
a number of young people in their early teens take part in binge
drinking with a quarter of 13 and 14-year-old students saying they
have recently consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a single
session. Nine per cent of boys and 5 per cent of 11 and 12-year-old
girls described themselves as regular drinkers.
More young people said they had used cannabis than any other
illegal drug. A quarter of girls and nearly a third of 15 and
16-year-old boys said they had used cannabis at least once, but the
reported use of more harmful illegal drugs was relatively low.
Although most young people said they liked the neighbourhoods
where they lived, about a fifth felt no attachment to their
communities and reported significant levels of crime, drug dealing
and other anti social activity. A similar proportion said they felt
unsafe going out after dark.
Barry Anderson, chief executive of Communities that Care (CtC),
who carried out the survey and was co-author of the report, said
the survey showed the potential for programmes like CtC to prevent
anti-social behaviour by tackling the underlying risk factors.
He described the findings on violence and under age alcohol
consumption as “particularly worrying”, but added that “to brand
young people in general as a problem would run counter to the
evidence, and make it harder to respond effectively to the minority
whose behaviour does cause problems.”
‘Youth at Risk?’ available at www.jrf.org.uk