I will try not to succumb to a knee jerk reaction but there are a number of thoughts that spring to mind. The now infamous 120,000 families targeted by the government in a ‘see to them before the next election’ claim, do of course contain some of school age. In the short term, making better use of the fact that many teachers and schools have built up good relationships with some of these young people and their families, ought to be a priority – if only to listen. This age group will need EMA, help with finding a job as well as the support of youth and community groups. Expensive – yes, but cheaper than rebuilding city centres.
For the younger age groups, changes to the curriculum should surely be a priority. This will probably need a loosening of the current straightjacket on schools of ‘exam results accountability’ and a restoration of the funding that was deployed in the most recent attempt, now strangled, to provide a decent vocational curriculum. Parenting will also need to be a focus and the spirit of Every Child Matters, and a locally co-ordinated approach, needs resurrecting.
The problem always seems to be one of amnesia on the part of politicians looking for easy wins and the rest of society, who look the other way. We know that this challenging group exists. We have been trying to do something about it and this has probably prevented previous riots. Recently, the volatile mix of student fee protests, phone hacking scandals, cuts, unemployment, banking bonus excess etc has tipped things over the edge.We forget that we cannot afford to stop trying and that we have not, as yet, exhausted all the different approaches. The big challenge, as we see the lurch to the right, is to have the courage to make the arguments about the need for ‘tough love’. Schools are pretty good at this and in the best ones, as in the best families, a recognition that there is the need both for the tough and for the love.