The link between patterns of truancy and school exclusion and offending by young people is thrown into sharp relief by two surveys carried out by MORI on behalf of the Youth Justice Board.
The survey of nearly 3,000 regular school attendees indicates that 72% had not committed any offence in the last 12 months. In a survey of children excluded from school [note 4] 72% admitted offending during the same period.
The most common offence among pupils in schools - at 44% - was fare dodging on buses, tubes or trains. Among the excluded group 69% admitted vandalism, 60% had shoplifted, 51% had carried a weapon and 54% bought drugs for their own use.
Norman Warner, chairman of the Youth Justice Board, said:
- "What these results show so dramatically is the link between school exclusion and offending behaviour. Not only do the truants offend far more the nature of their crimes is much more serious. This demonstrates graphically that intervening early to tackle truancy and exclusion is vital to preventing youth crime."
The MORI research also shows that a high percentage of young people in England and Wales live in fear of being the victim of crime, with 57% of children in school worried about the likelihood of physical assault. Fear of theft concerns 55% and school bullying 42%. These attitudes do not appear to be misplaced, since a majority of regular school attendees had been victims of crime in the last year.
An even more disturbing commentary on the attitudes of pupils is that 40%, across a wide ethnic band, worry that they may become victims of racism. Norman Warner said:
- "It is deeply disturbing that so many young people are growing up in fear of racism and racist attacks. The Board will monitor carefully the incidence of racism in youth crime and support programmes for tackling it when dealing with young offenders."
- "This survey shows that young people are more often the victims of crime than the perpetrators. We have to bear in mind the blight on the lives of so many young people as they grow up. We must tackle youth crime vigorously, but avoid demonising all young people, the great majority of whom are law abiding."
Other main findings are:
- Only 43% of excluded pupils thought it was always wrong to carry a knife as a weapon and only 59% of excluded pupils thought it was always wrong to burgle a house.
- High levels of alcohol consumption were admitted by excluded pupils with 70% drinking at least once a month, compared with 38% of regular school attendees.
- High levels of drug abuse were recorded by excluded pupils with 67% having used cannabis and 17% having used cocaine or crack.
- More than 60% of excluded pupils had father's that were not in full time employment
- The surveys provide a baseline of the current attitudes, views and admitted behaviour patterns of young people as the YJB launches its broad reforms of the youth justice system. By repeating the survey annually MORI will be able to chart the changes in those views and behaviour patterns and provide a yardstick for the effect of the work of the YOTs and the new measures.
- The regular school attendees survey was conducted among 2,767 children aged 11-16 in England and Wales between 17 January and 28 February 2000 by self-completion questionnaires. The survey of excluded pupils was conducted among 132 14 -18 year olds between 3 and 28 February 2000. The data has been weighted by age, sex and region.
- The Youth Justice Board keeps in touch with the attitudes and views of young people by talking directly to them, via the Youth Offending teams, arranging special focus group interviews and by annual opinion polling.
- Participating in projects run by the charity INCLUDE
- The YJB is an executive non-departmental public body set up under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to spearhead the Government's reform of the youth justice system. It is chaired by Norman Warner.