Schools must be for everyone

The close link between behaviour and education is becoming ever
more obvious. There is a vicious cycle in which children become
alienated from school, become unpopular with teachers and peers,
don’t learn to read or write effectively, exclude themselves
through truancy or are excluded by the school, commit offences, get
caught and lose touch with the education system altogether. For a
growing number the trouble begins at primary school.

Now researchers have confirmed what many people in the field
have understood for years. The competitive culture of league tables
in schools is in direct conflict with the government’s aim of
promoting social inclusion, and ending the cycle of poverty. The
target of full-time, appropriate education for 90 per cent of young
offenders in the community within a year is a challenging but
highly necessary one. But in the end it is in the mainstream
education service that changes are needed. As a speaker at the
Youth Justice Board’s recent conference on learning and
skills said, we cannot claim to have a universal education service
unless it can respond to the needs of children with multiple

But if state education is to retain public support, schools also
have to meet the needs of the mainstream – pupils whose parents
want and expect good examination results, and a safe and ordered
learning environment for their children. An inclusive culture in
all schools should be an explicit requirement, but to achieve it
they will need all the resources and expertise necessary, including
on-site specialist staff, as well as a curriculum which offers real
opportunities for achievement and success to every child.

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