Education can reduce childhood crime

HM Young Offenders Institution - Young Offenders


Recent government research by Charlie Taylor, a child behavioural expert, suggests that education could reduce teenage crime and prevent reoffending. We look at why education is so important for Young Offenders. 


Education is an integral part of our society. Without basic qualifications, life gets harder. Yet there is a small section of our society that has limited access to teaching, and they surely need it most. Offenders, and Young Offenders specifically, are entitled to an education, but have irregular and inadequate access to it. This needs to change because it could reduce youth crime and reoffending.


In 2007, 225,000 children were cautioned or convicted, but by 2015 this had decreased by 79% with just 47,000 children receiving the same fate. There are now only around 900 young people in youth custody. Sadly, 61% of those in custody reoffend within one year of release. 


Evidently, something in the system is not working. It may be punishing children, but it is not helping them learn from their mistakes. Charlie Taylor, a child behavioural expert, believes that health and education services are vital to reducing reoffending. Too often these services play a periphery role in youth rehabilitation when they should be at the forefront of the solution. Education can help Young Offenders and reduce reoffending


He writes that “education and training are the building blocks on which a life free from crime can be constructed”.


“If the youth justice system is truly to protect the public it must succeed in changing the lives of these most troubled children”.


Statistics show that half of 15-17 year olds in Young Offender Institutions have the literacy or numeracy levels expected of a 7-11 year olds, 9 out of 10 young offenders have been excluded at some point, and 40% have not been to school since they were 14. Education needs to play a bigger role in youth rehabilitation as not only can it give children more chances, but has been shown to reduce reoffending by 12%.


Our country is struggling with skills deficits, low literacy and numeracy skills, and limited preparation for the workplace – and this just refers to children receiving a normal education. If a child goes into custody and reaches adulthood with no qualifications and no skills training they will inevitably struggle to find stable employment. This young person is then forced back into crime just to survive. Education and skills training changes that outcome. With an education, that child can do anything it puts its mind to. They could attend university, get a job, start a business, write a book, or work as a mentor for other young people in their situation. Education reshapes that cycle of reoffending into something more positive and promising. More needs to be done to ensure children in custody have opportunities to access education and get that brighter future. 


Charlie Taylor’s suggested solution is the introduction of secure schools that will teach English, maths and health issues. Children are to be sent to these schools instead of the usual prison environments to promote their education and reduce the chances of reoffending. The Ministry of Justice is now planning to pilot this scheme in two establishments. 


Education helps Young Offenders and reduces reoffendingPrison needs to be a last resort for children. Other options must be explored first and underlying issues, like mental health disorders or educational difficulties, need to be recognised and supported. Custody takes children out of their homes, out of school and away from a normal childhood, all of which can have detrimental effects on that child’s development. If we are going to reduce childhood crime, custody and improve youth rehabilitation then we need to “see the child first and the offender second” and that child is entitled to an education.


To put it simply, there needs to be more of it and better access to it. There are barriers standing in the way of this and the success of educational schemes, such as staff shortages, funding and the attitude of the child itself. However, if those barriers can be overcome, education is irrefutably the way forward. If we can give children in custody access to teaching and learning so that they can go on to have a future that they didn’t think was possible, then we really can make a difference.


If you want to read Charlie Taylor’s full governmental report, then please click here

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