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Victims, criminals or plain stupid?

School leaders speak out on teenage rioters

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School leaders speak out on teenage rioters

Widespread rioting afflicted major cities across England this week as gangs of young people - including school-age children - defied police to cause criminal damage worth tens of millions of pounds. The TES asks teaching experts if schools can help in the aftermath and what advice they would give to prevent disorder from breaking out again

Jo Shuter, headteacher of Quintin Kynaston School in St John's Wood, London

The Government needs to look at the services provided to children, particularly to those in the 14 to early twenties age group.

There have been cuts in after-school provision. What activity have they got during the holidays, particularly during the 3-10pm slot? This is when they would have gone to the youth club.

Obviously there is a lot to do. I will definitely be talking to the kids in the first week back about looking after our community. There is a day of citizenship in the first week back so it will be included in that.

I will continue to talk to parents about knowing where their children are.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

One of the things the riots have shown is that schools are among the last havens of orderly behaviour in our society. Compare the behaviour outside schools to what is going on inside.

We need to evaluate what our responsibilities are as a society. Schools will continue to do what they already do. The riots are a reflection of a very deep and ingrained social problem in society.

It is absolutely wrong to point the blame at one particular place. Some schools will want to talk about the issues in assemblies and in personal education. It is part of what they should be doing and what they are already doing.

Kenny Frederick, headteacher at George Green's School in east London

What is frightening is that some youngsters are without empathy; they don't think about being in someone else's shoes.

Schools do have a part to play in developing the emotional side and empathy and talking to kids but this is a big parenting issue. Lots of parents aren't able to control their kids or don't have the parenting skills.

It shows the importance of not cutting back on the police force and the education maintenance allowance. All these cuts are punishing the poor. It is something that needs to be considered. The Government needs to think about the policies that they have put in place and reflect on them.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT

Far too much responsibility for societies' ills is placed on schools. The Government has to recognise its own responsibility in these matters. It cut youth provisions this summer. In particular, the Government has got a responsibility about the general level of inequality in society. Schools cannot do anything about inequality. Schools deal with the subject of citizenship - that is already squeezed on the curriculum - but the issue is the lack of youth resources. The lesson the Government should take from this is that it needs to rethink its treatment of young people.

Trevor Averre Beeson, director of Lilac Sky Schools

There were regular riots when I was working at inner city schools when 400-500 kids from other schools or from our own would gather outside school. It was frequent enough that there was a policy called "lockdown" when we would alert the police, lock strategic gates and stand in strategic positions.

We took a proactive approach and by and large it kept the school safe. A lot of these kids are a combination of being daft as a brush and not thinking of the consequences. Most are from dysfunctional families and have anti-social behavioural issues and require our social intervention.

Interviews by Suzanne Bearne

From the forums

`It's complicated'


"I'm from Tottenham. I'm not defending the rioting but a little understanding of the causes might go a long way. I'm not saying people shouldn't pay the consequences for their actions, just that it's odd that understanding of this ignores complicated social factors."


"My partner is a police officer in a badly hit area of south London. He texted me from work to tell me loads of parents are marching their children into the police station with the goods that they stole. This is reassuring."


"In many mainstream schools, kids are allowed to swear at teachers because `that's how they talk at home'. Is it any surprise there are gangs without standards and boundaries when they go through a system that tells them there aren't any."

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