As the underlying causes of last year’s UK riots continue to be investigated, an independent panel appears to be laying the blame squarely at the door of declining education standards in recommending that schools be fined for failing to teach their pupils to read and write.
About a fifth of school leavers have the literacy skills of an 11-year-old or younger, leaving many with no stake in society and no reason to stay out of trouble, the riots communities and victims panel said.
Introducing fines, which would then be used to help bring children up to the required standards, would help ensure the risk of future riots on the scale seen last August was “significantly reduced”, it said.
Figures released by the Department of Education last year show that over 100,000 seven year olds did not achieve their expected standard in writing and 83,000 pupils have a reading age of a five year old or worse.
The unions were quick to express bafflement at the finding and point out that the recommendations were likely to be counterproductive at a time when education was already underfunded:
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was at a loss to see where the panel had come up with its recommendations. Fining schools would only “add further to the problems they faced”, he said, adding that none of the causes of the riots were likely to be resolved by “simplistic solutions or a culture of blame”.
Lightman’s fears regarding the culture of blame seem well-founded as reports into the riots seem to be making declining education standards, and unruly youth, the scapegoat. Earlier this month Charlie Taylor, the UK government’s behavioral expert concluded that the best way to prevent a repeat of the trouble was identify anti-social children early and segregate them for special attention. This is unlikely to be the last report exploring the genesis of last year’s countrywide riots.