The All Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime today published their report Back to School? Breaking the link between school exclusions and knife crime
As greater demands are put on schools, there have been major cuts to youth services. This has created a perfect storm. Schools are increasingly excluding young people, sometimes for minor misbehaviour. The APPG Knife Crime report shows that schools are stretched too thin to provide the wrap-around support struggling young people need.
Therefore NYA is calling for at least two professional youth workers for every school catchment area to lead a team of youth support workers and trained volunteers in each community. This provides core support for other community-based work with and by young people to flourish. It creates a professional body and volunteer network complementary to and working with schools. Youth work engages young people on their own terms, well-placed to provide early help and support activities that harness skills not fulfilled by schools. Through that trusted relationship a qualified youth worker will also access services that a young person would not engage with otherwise.
Yet if we only focus on challenging behaviour and are not considering how to keep young people safe outside of school hours, including those excluded from schools, we will fail to address the problem of gangs and knife crime. Gangs will substitute a sense of belonging, for safety and security; and young people may carry knives out of fear of violence. A 70% rise in school exclusions since 2012 exacerbates the problem. This is played out in public places such as street corners and housing estates, where young people spend the majority of their time. The principles of providing a safe space in the community and a trusted adult, who knows what is needed, lies at the heart of good youth work.