Dundee may send excluded pupils to prison

Pupils have said a prison visit opened their eyes to what could happen to them. Picture: Getty
Pupils have said a prison visit opened their eyes to what could happen to them. Picture: Getty
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UNRULY children at schools in a Scottish city could be sent to a maximum security prison in an attempt to “scare them straight”, education bosses have revealed.

Dundee City Council’s education convener said the authority was “very concerned” by new figures that reveal it has the worst exclusion rate in the country.

In the city, 96 children in every 1,000 were excluded from lessons in 2012-13. That is almost double the second worst performing area – Aberdeen City Council’s 54 per 1,000 – and nearly three times the national average of 33 per 1,000.

Now council chiefs say they could implement a programme piloted in one Fife school that sees excluded pupils taken to maximum security Perth Prison – which houses murderers, drug addicts and other violent offenders – in an attempt to get the schoolchildren back on the rails.

Dundee City Council has launched a three-year, £1 million “Inclusion Plus” programme at four secondary schools in the city in an attempt to prevent exclusions.

And education chiefs say the scheme may take the next step of sending schoolchildren on trips to the Perth jail.

Stewart Hunter, Dundee City Council’s education convenor, said: “Inclusion Plus have taken kids to Perth Prison and said, ‘You don’t want to end up here’.

“They are just trying to identify issues with the kids, find out why they are misbehaving all the time and find out what can be done to turn them around.”

Dundee had 1,661 exclusions in the 2012-13 period. Across Scotland, there were 21,936 for the year. Almost a third involved either violence or a threat of violence, including the use of weapons or threat of sexual attacks.

Mr Hunter added: “We are very concerned about it. Any time there are exclusion cases there is a disruption for the pupil themselves. If they are not at school, they are not learning.

“There is concern for the pupils in class because if you have got a group of pupils that causes disruption to the teachers, that causes disruption to the kids.”

The programme proposal comes after a pilot scheme at Dunfermline High School which saw at-risk pupils taken to Cornton Vale and Perth Prison.

Jordan Duncan, a former pupil at Dunfermline High School, who is now studying at Adam Smith College, visited Cornton Vale during a spell in the school’s inclusion unit.

She said: “They [the inmates] all dropped out of school in fourth year. They’re not at college, not doing anything – just sitting, going out, misbehaving, getting in trouble with police.

“I could see myself doing that if it wasn’t for the unit because I wouldn’t have had the reality check, someone to sit me down and be authoritative to say, ‘This is what you need to do, or this is what’s going to happen’.”

Keiron Walls, another pupil who spent time in the unit, said a visit to Perth prison left an impression on him, too.

He said: “Talking to some of the prison people, they say if they had an inclusion unit in their school, they probably wouldn’t be in jail at that time.

“I was glad to hear that because I’m in it and I’m hoping I’m not going to jail. I’m making sure I don’t because Inclusion’s changed my life.”