Stabbings: pupils ask for training in first aid

17th October 2008 at 01:00
Disaffected youngsters say they want to know how to cope with injuries as worries about crime victims are part of daily life

Schools should offer lessons in first aid so that pupils know how to cope if they come across someone who has been shot or stabbed, a major inquiry into youth disaffection has been told.

Young people interviewed for the investigation said they saw the risk of being a victim of crime as "an inherent and omnipresent aspect of their daily life".

Others were drawn to join gangs in a search for a sense of belonging akin to family life.

The investigation also cites research published earlier this year which revealed that 36 per cent of under 25-year-olds responding to an online survey said they were worried about gangs in their area.

The findings are part of an inquiry into attitudes to learning and employment of 16 to 18-year-olds classed as NEET (not in employment, education or training).

It offers insights into the problems facing many young people in this group and also to their teachers. Some 27 teenagers are reported to have died violently on London's streets this year.

The probe, run jointly by the Oxford University-based Nuffield 14-19 Review and Rathbone, a youth charity, further concluded that flagship government policies including academies and the new diploma qualification were unlikely to help disaffected pupils.

The report is based on an analysis of research evidence and interviews with groups of young people and youth workers.

In its section on gangs and crime, the inquiry drew mainly on focus group work with young people in London and Manchester. "Many of the young people taking part in the London workshops saw risk (of crime) as an inherent and omnipresent aspect of their daily life," said the report.

"Some of the young people said that they felt that school should offer first aid lessons in order to teach them how to deal with people who had been shot or stabbed."

One youth commented: "My average day is to stay out of trouble."

Another is quoted as having witnessed a fatal stabbing when he was six, which he would "never forget".

When asked what they would do to change their local area, another, from Manchester, replied: "Stop the 10-year-olds being out at 12 o'clock at night terrorising everyone."

The report also cites "postcode wars". Some London teenagers talked of their unwillingness to leave their area's postcodes, as this often marks territorial boundaries between gangs. This was having an impact on Rathbone's work in Poplar, east London. And in nearby Hackney, it added: "The ever-present gang culture meant that some areas were no-go for the young people. The Job Centre, Connexions (advice) premises and the Rathbone centre were all beyond the safe territory for the young people."

Some youth workers interviewed for the study suggested that young people might be exaggerating their experience of gang culture. But the report said their fears were "very real" and said there was a need for better education to challenge the glamourisation of gang life.

The report praised the commitment of some youth workers, who provided role models to their charges. Some of the young people also praised teachers who had supported them, although generally they felt "alienated" from school.

The number of permanent exclusions from state secondaries was higher now than in 2000, it said. And the total of fixed-term exclusions had risen from 4.5 per cent of the school population in 20034 to 5.7 per cent in 20067.

Although school attendance rates were improving overall, in 28 secondaries, more than a fifth of pupils were "persistent absentees", defined as missing at least a fifth of lessons annually. In almost a third of secondaries, persistent absences stood between 3 and 6 per cent.

On academies, the report said: "We see no evidence that this programme is benefiting the young people we are concerned with". It cited higher than average exclusion rates at these schools, and a belief that their semi- independent status would not benefit inter-school collaboration to tackle disaffection.

Diplomas, the report warned, risked missing vulnerable pupils because they did not contain enough purely practical work, such as bricklaying or hairdressing.

And the Government's policy of forcing all 16 to 18-year-olds to undergo education or training could backfire by forcing employers to rethink employing under-qualified youngsters.

The report was also scathing of the Government's approach to improving matters through targets for raising the number of pupils achieving qualifications. Engagement with learning, rather than pupils passing courses, should be the aim, it said.

"Engaging youth inquiry into young people who are NEET." www.nuffield14-

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