Currently, there are approximately 10 million people in the UK with a criminal conviction. At Timpson we believe it is madness to throw such a large section of society on the employment scrapheap. By carefully selecting the right individuals to work in our business, we have enabled thousands of ex-offenders to have a second chance in life and go on to have rewarding careers. Often, other employers don’t realise they can be missing out on some very talented, hardworking individuals. Their loss is our gain. Currently, our retention rate for colleagues who we have recruited from prison or who have a criminal conviction is approximately 75%. This means that the vast majority of colleagues that we employ from prison do not re-offend.
They are a principled, effective and successful outfit as far as I am able to tell. Forgive me, but the same cannot be said for our current government or their political opponents.
We’ve been reading the Timpson Report on Exclusions this week. I don’t think former Education Minister Edward Timpson is a scion of the cobbler Timpsons, but he grew up in a family which fostered almost 90 children. He was handed a difficult job which he fulfilled diligently. He made 100 visits and took 1000 submissions, completing the report at the turn of the year only for it to be sat on by the department for months while they wrangled about money and power (I’m told).
There are 30 recommendations, which said department has agreed ‘in principle’. I’ll spare you the detail but here are the key points:
- Schools should be made responsible for the children they exclude, no matter when they exclude them by being accountable for their GCSE results.
- Headteachers must retain the power to exclude pupils where necessary
- A small number of schools are off-rolling (where children are made to leave a school without the proper process being followed) for their own interests.
- Councils must be advocates for vulnerable children to make sure they are well-placed
- Funding is a problem but good practice is still possible
- Most schools take a balanced and measured approach to using exclusion but some don’t
- Boys are substantially more likely to be excluded in primary school than girls.
- Persistent disruptive behaviour accounts for around a third of all exclusions
- Alternative Provision provides education to excluded pupils but it is often not very good
- Schools face a particular challenge in recognising, understanding and meeting the needs of children in, or on the edge of, the care system.
- Ofsted should ‘consistently recognise’ inclusive schools
All of this is pretty obvious so I shall make obvious points in my turn. The biggest problems in our system are these:
- It values autonomy above all things, which means that there are over 20000 individual decision-makers making decisions behind closed doors.
- It values simple outcomes such as GCSE results because they are cheap to measure. This has driven the system mad. Troubled, vulnerable and needy children do not get good exam results so schools who are in trouble or who wish to seek pre-eminence by exam results are reluctant to admit them or keep them.
- There are too few teachers in the system and all of them are working harder. This means that behaviour support is stretched.
- Schools have no money. They have to prioritise teaching so all the pastoral support has withered away.
- Political decisions have stripped the public sector to the bone. As well as too few police there are too few youth workers, psychologists, social workers. There is no one to turn to.
Austerity has taken a terrible toll on its children.
Timpson described a system where the best hope for an excluded child might be Timpson’s. How do we live with that?