- Category: Frontpage Articles
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- Published: Friday, 03 June 2011 12:35
- Written by Carol Hayden
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Crime, Anti-Social Behaviour and Schools in Britain – are all schools ‘at risk’? 
Professor Carol Hayden, ICJS, Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth, Inaugural Lecture, January 26th, 2011.
Some questions to have in mind when reading this paper:
Were young people better behaved in school in the past?
‘Winchester [the public school] was often hit by serious disturbances, one rising there in 1818 required the intervention of soldiers armed with fixed bayonets before order was restored’ (Tubbs, 1996, p.12).
Is breaking the law common?
‘It is probably a minority of children who grow up without ever behaving in ways which may be contrary to the law’ (HMSO, 1969, p.3).
Do we demonise children?
‘It is crucial not to demonise children…. There are issues of behaviour that need to be addressed but the vast majority of children are as supportive, idealistic and inspirational as young people have ever been.’
(Sir Alan Steer, former head teacher and leader of the school disciplinary task force, 2005, p.1)
Do some schools need a police officer on the school site?
‘Police were called to deal with violence in schools more than 7,000 times last year.....................teaching unions described the statistics as scaremongering and said schools were safe places. ...............Fear of violence among teenagers has been exacerbated by numerous high-profile stabbings and similar gang-related crimes’ (The Independent, 2008, paras. 1,5 & 6).
‘Beat officers being assigned to secondary schools in Southwark... has led to an improvement in behaviour.....Police have been able to assist staff with truancy reduction work, support the on-site learning support unit and run specialist days on topics such as anti-bullying, anti-drugs and accidents and emergencies (Teachernet, 2010, paras. 1& 3).
Have standards of behaviour in schools improved in recent years?
‘.....there is strong evidence from a range of sources that the overall standards of behaviour achieved by schools is good and has improved in recent years’ (Steer, 2009, p.4).
Is problematic behaviour in schools largely a question of ‘discipline’ and redressing the balance of power between teachers and children?
‘The greatest concern voiced by new teachers and a very common reason experienced teachers cite for leaving the profession is poor pupil behaviour. We know that a minority of pupils can cause serious disruption in the classroom. The number of serious physical assaults on teachers has risen. And poorly disciplined children cause misery for other pupils by bullying them and disrupting learning. It is vital that we restore the authority of teachers and head teachers. And it is crucial that we protect them from false allegations of excessive use of force or inappropriate contact. Unless we act more good people will leave the profession – without good discipline teachers cannot teach and pupils cannot learn’ (DfE, 2010a, p. 6).
These opening quotes illustrate that contemporary concerns about the behaviour of children and young people are not new and that there are some very different perspectives about this. Steer (a former head teacher) reminds us that ‘the vast majority’ of children are ‘idealistic and inspirational’, whilst a government document in 1969 acknowledges that only ‘a minority’ are likely to grow up ‘without ever behaving in ways which may be contrary to the law’. A moment’s reflection on our own past may well confirm the latter observation.
The most recent White Paper (DfE, 2010a) acknowledges that it is ‘a minority’ who cause ‘serious disruption in the classroom’. This paper will try and make sense of all this; focusing on the behaviour of children and young people  in and around schools.
The paper covers three main themes:
1 A critical look at how, in late modernity, we have come to focus on schools in relation to crime prevention.
2 An overview of the evidence about the prevalence of different types of problematic behaviour, from young people, in and around schools.
3 An argument about the connection between the most serious behaviours; and, the maintenance of inequality through schooling.
The paper aims to raise questions about the way access to schooling is organised in Britain; arguing that the system is profoundly and damagingly unequal in a way that actively helps to create the social conditions many fear most. Inequality and its interaction with the school system is something about which there is agreement across the main political parties; it is the solutions to the situation that differ. As Gove (Secretary of State for Education) recently said:
‘....we have one of the most unequal education systems in the world, one of the most stratified, segregated and unfair education systems of any developed nation’ (Gove, 2010, BBC interview, November 24th).
Inequality and unfairness matters to us all because it effects the way people behave and is associated with ‘worse health, social conflict and violence’ (Reiner, 2007, p. 10).
The main focus of this paper is on the state education system, although it should be acknowledged at the outset that private education is a very important part of the segregation of children in Britain (which is one possible reading of the quote from Gove).