Headlines: September 22nd, 1997

David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, has announced a £23 million package to help combat social exclusion. It will be targeted on poor attendance and behaviour problems.Bids will be invited later this month for projects in 1998-99:

  • to help LEAs and schools tackle truancy
  • to help reduce exclusion from school and improve provision for excluded pupils, and
  • to bring disaffected 14-16 year olds back to learning.

The initiative will focus on the economic, social and educational causes of alienation and disaffection. Mr Blunkett said: “I believe education lies at the heart of our programme to combat social exclusion.” He warned that the disengagement of thousands of young people from the education process was a “ticking time bomb”. Disaffection from school is extremely costly. It costs the community in terms of the disruption which young people on the streets can create. There is a cost in terms of blighted prospects for the individual pupil who may fail to pick up any qualifications.The is also the cost to the taxpayer of dealing with the consequences of failure. The recent Audit Commission report “Misspent Youth” indicated that 65% of school-age offenders sentenced in court had also been excluded from school or were persistent truants.

Mr Blunket said: ” I hope that together we can reconnect young people to school and to learning.” He outlined how teachers must work with other professionals – social workers, psychologists, and probation officers, to help tackle the difficulties which some children face.

The importance the Government attaches to its programme to combat social exclusionwas demonstrated recently by the establishment of the Social Exclusion Unit and the announcement that the Prime Minister will chair meetings.