Exclusions don't cause crime

13th June 1997 at 01:00
Your article, "Reducing truancy is 'key' to cutting crime" (TES, May 30) reveals a fundamental error in research methodology. The fact that two variables, in this case truancyexclusions and juvenile crime, show similar patterns in terms of which young people are involved could mean that truancyexclusions cause juvenile crime or that juvenile crime is caused by other factors and in turn leads to truancy exclusion. A third possibility is that they are both caused by a third set of factors like family background.

In fact the second and third patterns are far more likely than the one you report Demos as having arrived at. There is clear evidence that a minority of young people are socialised into crime (by older youths) at about 12. Serious truancy tends to come later, and exclusions result from the importation of criminal behaviour towards other pupils into school. Since exclusions follow crime, they cannot be a cause of it. The school's prime responsibility is to protect pupils whilst they are in school. That may include protecting them against other pupils.

The location of a school is no longer a guide to the type of areas their pupils are drawn from. Two schools geographically close often enrol very different segments of the local population of young people.

E F SMITH, Headteacher, Churchfields High School, West Bromwich, Sandwell, West Midlands

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