“I think there is something to be said for the argument that there is a section of youth in this country that do not feel they have a legitimate future, who have been raised in poverty, who in a sense are completely marginalized and isolated from the rest of society, and who feel they have no power over their own lives.” - Owen Jones, ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’
More than one in four (260,000) children in Scotland are officially recognised as living in poverty in 2018, compared to 22% (220,000) in 2014/15. 3.5 million children are estimated to be living in poverty in England.
A lot of kids have positive role models in their lives: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends and/or teachers. These positive role models teach them about positive behaviour and how to act as members of society effectively. Although some kids do not have these positive role models in their lives to provide them with wisdom or insight.
Most kids living in the poverty-stricken council estate areas come from negative family environments where they’re told they’re no good and they’ll never amount to anything. Then they walk out their front door and society tells them the same thing, they go to school and their teachers tell them the same thing and when they see a newspaper and see the word “chav” or “scum” it is very clear to them that they are not wanted. They feel alienated, that society doesn’t care about them. For every person that uses these words, there will always be a child that will accept it and play up to it.
“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth”
The Attainment Gap in Scotland
There is clear evidence of a persistent gap in attainment between pupils from the richest and poorest households in Scotland. This gap starts in preschool years and continues throughout primary and secondary schools. In most cases it widens as pupil’s progress. At age five there is a thirteen-month gap in vocabulary development and a ten-month gap in problem solving. The Scottish Attainment Challenge was launched in February 2015. It is about achieving equity in educational outcomes. Ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed with a focus on closing the poverty related attainment gap. Although there is clearly still a lot more work to be done.
In 2014/15 exclusions in Primary Schools in Scotland were the lowest they have been since 2002/03. Slightly less than 4,000 primary school pupils were excluded. Pupils who are excluded are more likely to live in areas of higher deprivation, have additional support needs or are looked after by the local authority. How can just below 4,000 be the lowest it has ever been? The number of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in England has increased from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16. This means there were approximately 35 exclusions a day in 2015/16 up from an average of 30 per day in 2014/15. More than a third of young people who were involved in the riots in 2011 had been excluded from school during 2009-10. More than one in 10 of the young people who went to court for rioting and looting had been permanently excluded. I am not saying I condone the behaviour of kids who have acted so badly they ‘have to’ be excluded. Although I think you have to understand most of these kids are living in deprived areas. They may be from broken families, had parents that were/are alcoholics, drug addicts or generally dysfunctional and were raised to believe they could never make something of themselves because their parents never made something of themselves. No child in Primary School should be excluded, unless they are a danger to the pupils and teachers, even then the school which is excluding them should make sure they are sent to another school which is made for kids like this, such as a behaviour assessment centre. If you, as a teacher, possibly the only positive role model this child has gives up on them at a young age, you are either being the first person telling them they will never amount to anything or you are just another person telling them they will never amount to anything. They will decide at this young age that this is the way it is always going to be for them.
“I got kicked out of school in year 10 and no other schools would take me. I had to go to a pupil referral unit called the Tunmarsh Centre in Plaistow. I was there with other kids from a lot more dysfunctional family than me. They'd been through a lot more than me. And one thing we shared is we didn't have any respect for authority, whether it be teachers or police. I think the reason why we didn't have respect for authority was that we felt that we were ignored by society, that we didn't belong to it…The great thing about Tunmarsh Centre was it was a place where these kids could go and, for the first time in their life, be shown encouragement and motivation and be told that they can make something of their lives. They can come from a negative family environment, but they only have to bump into one person that can plant one positive seed in their head and in their heart and it can change their life. Tunmarsh was full of these positive teachers.” – Plan B
“Council Housed and Violent”
It is not the child’s fault that they are being raised in a deprived area or are in the care system. They were unlucky. If higher income, more 'lucky' people, tell them they are ‘no good’ or ‘chavs’ and give up on them in Primary School just because they were unlucky enough to be born into a family that couldn’t raise them in a ‘nice’ area and send them to a ‘good’ school, they’re going to hate you, of course they are. And you’re going to hate them because they are CHAVs, as Plan B said, “Council Housed and Violent”, they don’t know any other way because you didn’t allow them to know any other way at the age where it is easiest to learn if you have somebody willing to teach you and help you. In the end they will say, “Whatever, I don’t care. I don’t want to be part of your society.” Then you will get a whole generation of kids who will grow up to be the same as their parents, it is a viscous circle. You will get kids who will grow up and start dealing drugs and/or selling themselves because they’ve got nothing else to sell and no other way of making money. Kids will join gangs and start rioting and looting just like what we saw on our screens in August 2011, because they feel detached from society and they don’t have anything else to do because they were told they couldn’t do anything and they believed it. They think what is the point in going to school or getting a job if they’re going to get kicked out or fired. A lot of community centres shut down that year, there was no money left to give the kids something to do during the summer. They’re not going on holiday, they can’t afford it. They’re angry at politicians, at the higher classes, at the people who have labelled them and decided who they are, so they destroy everything most people see as important. They come together as gangs with the mindset that the police can’t arrest them all, they were taking a stand against society and anybody with authority, especially the police. Around 3,000 people were arrested during the 2011 riots.
"If you ask how we became a society where young people think it's OK to rob and loot, I respond how did we get to a society that cares more about shops and businesses than lives of young people." - Sheldon Thomas, former gang member and mentor
I feel like there are too many teachers who rely on the parents or guardians of their pupils to do half of their jobs. The kids who has positive role models as parents who care about their education then go on to do a lot better in school and the kids who don’t have a positive role models suffer because they don’t have somebody to help with their homework or practice reading with. I believe the most important part of being a teacher is ensuring every child knows if they work hard, and with your help, they can be whoever they want to be and never give up on them. It is your job as teacher to educate every child that walks into your classroom and ensure that they are all getting the most out of the free education which they are all lucky to have.