Schools that unofficially exclude children to hide them from exam league tables are fuelling gang violence, the children’s commissioner for England says.
Anne Longfield said she has begun an investigation into the practice of taking children “off-roll” without formally excluding them because they are viewed as difficult to manage and may drag down the school’s results.
The office of the commissioner, an independent position backed by statute, is conducting an urgent analysis of confidential government data, including exclusions and police records, to establish how many off-roll children are drawn into gangs.
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Longfield said it was vital for the government to give clearer advice to schools on handling children at risk of joining gangs, after receiving a letter from a Manchester headteacher who had resorted to looking at YouTube videos for help.
The headteacher also made the extraordinary claim that some gang members had approached schools, posing as anti-gang voluntary groups, in an effort to recruit vulnerable young people into gangs.
“Anecdotally, people report that more children who aren’t in mainstream education are being marginalised and are more vulnerable to gangs, who are preying on them and grooming them,” Longfield told the Observer. “What I want to do is show that link directly in areas of hotspots, to see whether there is a causal link between more school exclusions and gang violence.”
The rising pressure on schools to achieve better Sats, GCSE and A-level results each year creates an incentive to look for small advantages. Some, such as St Olave’s in Orpington, south-east London, went as far as to withdraw places from pupils it believed would not get good results, artificially boosting its league table position.
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Ofsted is looking at another 300 schools, and has identified about 9,500 children who disappeared from school registers just before starting their GCSE year. Alongside the unofficial exclusions are the official ones – up by 40% over three years to 6,685 in 2015-16.
Where do these excluded children go? Some are educated at home while others go to pupil referral units (pRUs) – both are associated with worse educational outcomes, Longfield said, with three-quarters of pRU children regularly absent.
Gangs looking to expand their drug-dealing businesses often turn to pRUs as a source of recruits, Longfield said. “They know where to find them. Their techniques are very tenacious – they use a whole range of models which are quite frightening.”
The headteacher of an alternative provision school in Manchester wrote to Longfield with a warning for education professionals. “A police officer told me that some gang members are approaching schools to offer motivational sessions but in reality are still involved in gangs themselves and may even be using this as a recruitment tactic,” the headteacher wrote.
Longfield said if children were rejected from mainstream schools and had little family support, gangs could become an attractive option, with around 30,000 children aged 10 to 15 admitting they are part of a gang, according to the commissioner’s research. “These children are in many ways invisible – they become visible when they hit the headlines and then we’re surprised,” she said. “And in the long school holidays, there are increasing worries about this.”
Longfield said the response of the Manchester school to gangs was impressive, developing a programme that included training teachers in how to spot signs of gang radicalisation, minimising the contact between pupils at risk of joining gangs, and de-glamorising gang culture“This is a school that recognises a problem here and is really stepping up, doing really strong safeguarding and making sure that the culture in the school is really about counter cultures against gangs,” she said. . “I would like the government to give advice to schools about how they should adopt policies like this and the positive work they should undertake,” she said.
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Ex-offenders who want to study for a degree may find it easier in future to secure a place on a course after the university admissions service, Ucas, confirmed it was dropping its requirement for students to declare convictions when they apply.
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Until now, former prisoners and those with unspent convictions have had to tick a criminal record disclosure box when applying to university. For many it acted as a deterrent to applying, while others have been refused a place despite satisfying all the academic requirements.
Ucas confirmed on Tuesday that the next round of applications, to begin studies in September 2019, would no longer include the box. Campaigners said the decision removed one of the barriers to ex-prisoners accessing higher education.
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As many universities aim to widen participation, Ucas says it has been working for two years with charities including the Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET), the Longford Trust and Unlock on how to improve progression routes to university for ex-offenders.
The introduction of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force last week, prompted Ucas to bring forward the decision to remove the disclosure box.
Ben Jordan, a senior policy and qualifications manager at Ucas, said: “Ucas is committed to ensuring that anyone who wants to study at university or college has the opportunity to apply and isn’t put off by questions on the application.
“We’ll be making changes to the information we collect from applicants about unspent criminal convictions for the 2019 entry cycle. In previous years, everyone was asked to disclose whether they had any unspent, relevant criminal convictions. However, this has now been removed and we hope this reaffirms that higher education is open to everyone.”
According to PET, ex-offenders have been offered places on the basis of their academic record, only to find their offer withdrawn at the last minute because of concerns about their criminal past.
Georgie, a former prisoner, was elated to receive an offer to study architecture at a London university. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought this was going to be the start of something new. But then, on the day of enrolment, the university withdrew my application,” he said.
“In an email, they said the reason for reversing their decision was the fact of my criminal record. This was despite the fact it was an offence I had committed in 2009, and I was fully discharged in 2012 with no restrictions against me as an individual. I was destroyed, heartbroken.” The university has since reversed its decision.
Nina Champion, PET’s head of policy, said: “A week after the justice secretary encouraged businesses to employ people with convictions, PET warmly welcomes the decision by Ucas to promote second chances when it comes to higher education.
“The charities PET, Longford Trust and Unlock have been working with Ucas to address some of the arbitrary and discriminatory practices that have gone on in university admissions processes, which have prevented many talented and qualified people from studying at university level.
“If universities are committed to widening participation, they should be considering the widest number of potential applicants. The change by Ucas provides a strong signal to universities that criminal records shouldn’t feature in their assessment of academic ability.”
Georgie, who is now helping his university to improve its admissions procedures, said: “I don’t believe universities or any form of higher education institution should be willing to knock back someone just because of their criminal record.
“I think ex-offenders, reformed characters, whatever you want to call them, have a lot to offer – a lot of ambition, a lot of drive, a lot of passion. We probably make the best students just for the sheer fact that we want it so desperately.”
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Women are hard to understand. I know this not only from my own experiences with dating, relationships, and casual flings, but also because I’ve heard lady friends of mine say it about other ladies! What comes off as obvious, or duh, or even common sense isn’t always the case. People, not just women, often expect others to be able to read their thoughts, ideas, and secrets without moving their mouth. Barring some sort of drastic technological development, mind reading isn’t an option when trying to understand someone else. Thankfully, here’s a list of secrets women actually want their men to know.
1. “E” is for effort
Plain and simple, most men don’t have enough of it outside the bedroom. It goes a lot further than taking out the trash or holding the door open for her when you’re out and about. When a woman lets you into her life it’s a very important and sensual thing. It should be highly cherished. Doing something really special for no reason, or finding a creative way to make her day better or more special will go a long way with her. The hardest part isn’t winning the chase for her affection, but keeping it.
2. Chivalry is not in the obituaries
There’s this loosely celebrated relationship faux pas that “chivalry is dead.” That’s funny. When friends or acquaintances say that, what you’re actually hearing is, “I’m extremely lazy and self centred.” Now, dudes, before you get out your pitchforks and fire torches and try to run me out of town (or tell me it’s an “equality” thing) – just stop. You should be 100% proud of your lady, though I think it’s unhealthy to make her the centre of your entire world. It’s crucial that you show her consistently how much she means to you. This isn’t necessarily done verbally with an overwhelming shower of “I love you.” I’ll even go to say it’s not about holding the door, saying please or thank you, or even being kind to others, but those are all encouraged. Do you remember when your lady said, “Hey. I like when you do [x]?” Yeah, do that. Paying attention to her is the purest form of chivalry.
3. Shhhhhhhh. Listen
I’m kind of picking on guys in the majority of this, but to do so on this bullet point isn’t entirely fair. Everyone can be pretty awful at listening. However, this is a big secret women want us to understand: we don’t listen enough. Our way of decompressing is grabbing a happy hour beer after work with buddies or hitting the sticks (video game lingo) with our virtual friends in Korea. Though some women prefer both of those things the majority just want to talk about their crappy day, or lacklustre boss, or friend who’s a bridezilla. It’s often played off as a joke in pop culture, but you should want to listen to her. It’s never a chore because you love her.
4. They’re extremely intuitive
They have a better idea of what you’re feeling most times than you do, gents. Women are just like that. Well, it’s largely based on an innate ability women have to better read nonverbal communication than you. Therefore, based on your body language, eyes, hands, feet, stance, posture, and a myriad of other characteristics about you they’ve closely, but unconsciously studied during your time dating, they know when you’re lying. They know when you’re deceitful. They usually know when you’re cheating. Don’t cheat them, both figuratively and literally. They’ll know.
"All this time you were sitting here, the telegraph has been clicking away, saying: 'If you can understand this, come on into the office right now. You've got the job.'
As he clapped his hand on the young man's shoulder, he smiled broadly and said, "This young fellow was the only one of you who heard or understood the message."
Why did this young man alone hear and understand the message?
Listen to what Scottish psychologist R. D. Laing had to say on this subject:
"The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change - until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds."
You'll probably need to read that a couple of times. (I sure did!) Then just let it sink in a bit.
Now, wouldn't it be great if you could just put on a special pair of glasses that would magically cause all the opportunities that come your way every single day to stand out from all the background "noise?" To jump into sharp relief against what Mr. Wattles calls "mere appearances" so that you could notice them?
Just imagine that for a minute. Everything looks normal one moment - all the everyday hassles, the BIG problems, the regular stresses and frustrations, and so on. Life going on all around, as usual.
And then you put on your magic specs (which, by the way, are extremely cool and you look fabulous in them!), and - wow! - the entire world looks SO different!
Suddenly you see connections you hadn't noticed before. Suddenly what previously looked like a HUGE problem you were trying to put off dealing with has magically morphed into a lucky break.
And people look different, too - even some of the grumpy, disagreeable ones are starting to shape up.
Isabel Spearman is a brand and image consultant who previously worked as special adviser to Samantha Cameron at Downing Street. Each week , she offers a helping hand dissecting workwear dress codes and offering a modern take on power dressing clinique fresh pressed.
To ask Isabel Spearman your workwear questions, In this week's column, she offers winter options for the trouser-averse...
Q: I find trouser suits so unflattering, but they seem to be the only thing warm enough in the winter. Please tell me there’s another option?
A. It’s hard to get away with wearing a maxi length to work in the summer as it can tend to look like you’ve underdressed or are on your way to the beach. However, wintertime is a great excuse for covering up and embracing maxi length skirts and dresses for the office. I don’t mean full length ball gowns but ankle skimming day wear.
The key to this look is to wear them with boots- ankle, knee high, high heel or flat- whatever your personal preference as they will all suit.. Yes, you might have to pick the skirt up as you walk up stairs and they can be especially dangerous on an escalator (I still haven’t recovered from my maxi skirt being literally ripped from my body at the top of the escalators at the Clothes Show Live when I was 15.) However, these small risks are outweighed by the feeling a maxi length gives you,“ Every sofa is an artwork.” That’s how defines craftsmanship.
There is something so satisfying about a good swish and it is also a life saver for those (like me) who struggle with finding the right fit of trouser but don’t always want to show our legs. I live in a J.Crew tartan long A-Line skirt this time of year which I wear it with a poloneck or white shirt, long coat and boots and its cosy enough to keep me warm but also great for meetings.
Ganni are good at longer lengths and they have a fantastic skirt with black and navy panels which would look great with a slim knit or if you need to cover your tummy, a boxy fit top. If you appreciate a good print, like I do, then choose a bold one with a darker colour in it so you can pair it with a matching knit. Raey have a lovely option.
Long dresses in a day appropriate fabric are so easy as you just have to throw them on. They generally cover up a multitude of sins and can be dressed up with a tailored jacket. A shirt dress is the easiest way to wear the longer length as it is a flattering cut and you can smarten them up with a leather belt and boots. Don’t be put off by the summery blue of the Finery dress, it will look stunning with black and last you all the way through to wearing it with bare legs. For more of a statement I love the Marella monochrome striped dress and Michael Kors have a pretty chiffon option. Just remember to watch out on the escalators,Learn about the latest travel news from PartnerNet, and participate in HKTB's activities and mega events.