A day in the life of one of the 100,000 children absent from our schools
Joshua, who lives in Southall, west London, was permanently excluded from his Ealing comprehensive school at the beginning of April for "offensive behaviour" to a teacher and has not attended school since. He is one of the 100,000 children, referred to by Mr Blair yesterday, who are not attending school either because they have been excluded or because they are playing truant.
Joshua is gloomy about his future.
Until April, Joshua's hopes were high. He was doing well in PE and planning to become a PE teacher or lecturer when he left school. He was also intending to take GCSEs in other subjects next summer.
Now, his life has changed. He gets up at about 9am, just after his two brothers, aged 11 and 12, have set off for school. Then, if his mother needs him, he helps her tidy up the house for an hour or so.
By mid-morning he is back in his room, where he spends most of the morning. He reads action comics - Brigade and Young Blood are his favourites - and sometimes a book by his favourite author, Roald Dahl.
He does try to do some schoolwork by going through the exercise books he brought home after his exclusion. "But I am just going over stuff I have done already. I am not learning anything new. It gets boring," he said yesterday.
By lunchtime, it is time for television. He likes cartoons and watches Neighbours and Home and Away. He may play on the computer for half an hour but he spends most of the afternoon looking forward to the time when his brothers come home from school.
He takes them to a little park just opposite the house. He watches them play or talks to his friends. By 8pm he is back home. More television. More computer. And bed at about 10pm.
On some days Diane Mitchell, his mother, who has a diploma in early years education, teaches him for an hour or so. Mrs Mitchell, who had understood that her son would be transferred to another comprehensive school, has just heard that he is being sent to a special unit. "I am in a state of shock. I refuse to let him go. My son is not a juvenile delinquent. I won't let him go somewhere where the other children don't want to learn."
Both she and Joshua accept that he argued with a teacher but they deny that he swore at her at her and they say that he left the class when she told him to go.
Joshua said: "I feel bad, very bad. When you are reading a book on your own you get bored quickly. I miss education. I miss my friends. What I want to do is just go back to school."
Gets up after his younger brothers have left for school.
May help mother with some housework if it is needed.
Back in bedroom to read comics and maybe a book. Lunch followed by television or games for three hours. Brothers return. Goes to park to play and talk.
Back home for tea and more television or games.
And so to bed. Ready for another day of television.
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