How more exercise in school could help cut youth knife crime

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Schools are being accused of failing young people, leading to the rise in gang violence and fatal stabbings across the UK.

Harriet Sergeant, a research fellow for the Centre of Policy Studies, has described adolescent males as an “alien species” who need “special care and attention” in schools.

She has blamed the education system for the recent spike in knife crime which has seen fatal stabbings rise by 24% across the UK in the last 12 months and over 30 people killed in the first three months of 2019.

“If you look at a gang, a gang is simply providing boys exactly what they want and filling the void that schools are failing to do. There’s nothing more hierarchical, structured or competitive or active than a gang,” Ms Sergeant told Adam Boulton on the All Out Politics podcast.

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“It’s school where the failings are happening and particularly in primary school because by the time they get to secondary school, all the boys I interviewed all dropped out of school. Around the age of 14. That is peak time they go onto the streets.

“They start drug dealing and then they’re usually the ones who are the perpetrators and the victims of knife crime.

If you can’t read or write and you can barely use a computer that’s just a one way ticket to the edge of society.

London mayor Sadiq Khan and several police and crime commissioners throughout the UK have also linked the recent knife crime crisis to schools failing their students.

Mr Khan told Sky News the practice of “off-rolling” – where children are asked to leave a school without officially being excluded – was leading to a rise in violent crime.

“There’s been a crisis in our schools about how you deal with teenage adolescent boys,” Ms Sergeant said.

“Adolescent boys are an alien species that need special care and attention. Cultures for thousands of years have done that and given it to them.

“We don’t. We just let adolescent boys grow up any old how. We’re not giving them what they need to thrive.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has come under increasing scrutiny during the crisis for overseeing a cut of 20,000 police officers while home secretary.

Her critics say there is a direct relationship between the police cuts and the rise in crime.

Mrs May, however, dismissed the claims on March 4, saying: “If you look at the figures, you’ll see that there’s no correlation between certain crimes and police numbers.”

But John Apter, chairman of the police federation for England and Wales, contradicted the prime minister, describing the current crisis as a direct result of the austerity policies introduced by the Tory government since 2010 that have cut funding to public services.

“Theresa May, at the moment, is in a position where she’s trying to make the argument that there are complex reasons for [an increase in knife crime],” said Tom Rayner, Sky News’ political correspondent.

“That it’s about changes in the illegal drugs market, it’s about development in gang culture, which has seen an increase in grooming of younger children.

“But what she’s not acknowledging is the other half of those complex problems, which is what Labour is suggesting, not just the 20,000 cuts to police numbers but also cuts to youth centres, probation, increases in homelessness, school exclusions, failing.

And Rayner said while everyone acknowledges that there is a serious crisis, solutions on how to tackle the problem are harder to find a consensus.

“What this has exposed is a real political tension between [Theresa May] and the home secretary,” Rayner said.

“Sajid Javid is much more prepared to acknowledge that there may need to be more resources. He is much more prepared to increase use of stop and search powers, potentially loosening some of the restrictions.

“For Theresa May, this is a question of her legacy. She, of course, introduced the restrictions on stop and search powers back in 2014 over concerns that they were being unlawfully applied in a discriminatory way, which was unfairly used against young black males.”

Ms Sergeant believes the decision to discontinue the use of stop and search was both naive and a mistake.

“Theresa May’s decision just shows the ridiculous political correctness,” she said. “[May] said, ‘Oh my goodness, everyone who’s been stopped is Afro-Caribbean.’ Yes. But she didn’t look at who the principal victims are of knife crime, which are Afro-Caribbean.

“What we should be looking at is how stop and search is done. Because at the moment these young boys I saw on the street are not being protected. No one’s looking after them. It’s incredibly dangerous.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond has promised the police will get more funding, but Ms Sergeant isn’t sure that just throwing money at the problem will offer a solution.

“Before we spend any more money on anything, just introduce exercise in the schools,” she said.

“Public Health England says that only 23% of boys get enough physical activity a week, they should be getting two or three hours of sport every day.

“When they are given that kind of exercise they are much happier to sit down and work and behave themselves. Something very simple like that would make a terrific difference,” Ms Sergeant said.

“If you could just give that those components to boys in schools this problem would be a lot less.”

(c) Sky News 2019: How more exercise in school could help cut youth knife crime

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