Measures announced by Education Secretary David Blunkett to deal with disruptive pupils and the introduction of youth justice reforms are part of the Government’s joined up approach to tackle the growing problem of disaffected young people. Research shows that when disruptive pupils are excluded from school they are on a potential fast track to crime. Some 70% of excluded pupils enter the criminal justice system.The aim of the new education measures is to deal with the various stages of disruption and limit the number of exclusions whilst recognising that disruptive pupils have a harmful effect on the total school system. Learning support units, or ‘sin bins’, within schools will be increased from 420 to 1000 at a cost of 28m pounds. There will also be a recruitment drive for ‘learning mentors’ who will assist teachers in dealing with disruptive pupils. In a move to get excluded pupils off the streets and back into a school, there will be a payment of 3000 pounds for schools that take in pupils excluded from other schools. The target is to reduce exclusions by one third by 2002.
In parallel with the education measures, you justice reforms were launched earlier in the month. Over 150 multi- agency Youth Offending Teams started work. They include social workers, police and probation officers, and education and health staff. The teams have an armoury of options for dealing with youth offenders. Reparation orders will make offenders face up to their crimes and the consequences of their actions. They will involve writing a letter of apology, apologising in person, cleaning graffiti or repairing criminal damage. Action plan orders lasting for three months are designed to address specific causes of offending. They combine punishment, rehabilitation and reparation.