‘School exclusions can condemn kids to life of crime’

EXCLUSION from school risks “propelling” young people into a life of crime, a study of offending has concluded.

EXCLUSION from school risks “propelling” young people into a life of crime, a study of offending has concluded.

Analysis carried out by the Scottish Government found good parenting and schooling in early life, along with policies to tackle drug and alcohol abuse in society as a whole, are among the most effective ways of reducing offending.

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The study, “What Works to Reduce Crime?”, said research had shown attachment to school to be an “important protective factor” in preventing young people from taking part in anti-social behaviour, with exclusion a way of pushing teenagers into more ­“ingrained offending”.

The report also said evidence backed alcohol minimum pricing and measures to restrict access to knives as key drivers for reducing the crime rate.

The number of exclusions in Scotland has fallen dramatically in recent years as schools seek out new ways of reaching disruptive and violent pupils.

Figures released last year showed that more than three-quarters of those permanently excluded lived in just two council areas, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Of 21,936 exclusions, more than 99.9 per cent were allowed to return to their original school after a temporary ban, with just 18 pupils “removed from the register” in 2012-13, meaning they were not allowed to return to their original school.

The government report, by Dr Liz Levy, Dr Dharshi Santhakumaran and Dr Richard Whitecross, highlighted the use of nurture groups, where children are put in smaller classes focusing on their emotional and social needs.

The report said: “Overall, the evidence strongly suggests that the key to having a sustained impact on crime is to address the underlying problems which drive young people to offend.”

It said there was evidence that “attachment to school is an important protective factor and that school exclusion risks propelling young people into more engrained offending”.

It was also noted that “designing out” crime through urban planning measures such as improved street lighting had been effective.

On alcohol, the report said reducing availability worked: “Policies that focus on increasing the price of alcohol, raising and implementing a minimum age of purchase, restricting the number and density of outlets and the restricting days and hours of sale have all been shown to be effective.”

The report also noted the importance of restricting access to knives, but said it was difficult to judge how effective controversial stop and search policies had been in discouraging young people from carrying blades. The researchers found that older interviewees, those over 16, were more likely to be deterred by the risks, which included a potential prison sentence.

A Scottish Government spokewoman said: “Our policies aim to reduce the need for school exclusions, with the rate of exclusions almost halving in the last seven years.

“Exclusion is an extremely serious option of last resort, to be used within an overall strategy of prevention, early intervention and promoting positive behaviour.