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25 September, 2015

Crime in Schools? Students need some carrot, not just the big stick, says Citizenship Foundation

The news reports that crime in UK schools is on the rise have been met with tough talk by the Government. But discipline is only part of the solution, says the education charity, Citizenship Foundation.

Lawyers in Schools - a school session
A Lawyers in Schools session in action.

Yesterday’s expose about crime rates in schools saw the government talking tougher about policing and protection.

‘Crime and violent behaviour have no place in our schools,’ said a spokesperson.

‘We have put teachers back in charge of the classroom,’ they said. ‘They can search pupils without consent, confiscate prohibited items and use reasonable force to remove disruptive pupils from the classroom when necessary.

‘We know many good schools already work with the police and other organisations to educate pupils and protect them from harm and involvement in crime.’ 

The recent drop in government support for teaching of citizenship was notably absent from the Department of Education’s response.

After 25 years of teaching the law in schools, the Citizenship Foundation is critical of this unbalanced comeback.

We know that young people are tired of being tarred with the same brush. We also know that they are typical as a population, a minority will commit crime. 

‘Good education for citizenship enables students to position themselves in relation to the law: to understand it as the established collective asset for justice – not an occupational hazard for criminals,’ said Andy Thornton, the Foundation’s CEO.

‘That’s why we have been introducing lawyers and barristers into school settings as well as developing the country’s leading materials for teaching citizenship education.

‘Criminologists tell us there are five ways to make crime go down. The first are to make it harder, riskier or less rewarding to commit, the last two are to make people feel less like outsiders and to decrease their excuses for doing the wrong thing.

We don’t pretend that good legal education will address the first three, but they definitely address the last two. If students see the sense of the law and the value of making a strong society that belongs to them, then they can recognise how all crimes have a knock on effect: how they destabilise and disconnect people like them.

'We can help young people believe in justice at all levels; to be as angry at friends who steal from the tuck shop as MPs who fiddle their expenses or businesses who avoid paying their tax.

Forty law firms, in-house legal teams and chambers put their staff into schools as part of our Lawyers in Schools programme. Big companies like Addleshaw Goddard, Olswang, Barclays, Verizon, JP Morgan, Mitsubushi and BBC Worldwide work with groups of school students to connect them to the legal framework that governs their lives.

Update, 30 September 2015

A letter from our Chief Executive, Andy Thornton, was pupblished in the Telegraph today under the title 'Crime and citizenship'.

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