Patricia Lee-Sang:'We have to believe they can change'

We've heard from the politicians, but what can educators do to help prevent a repeat of this summer's troubles?

There has been a lot of heat and very little light so far in terms of what needs to be done to stop the riots happening again. While it's the Government's and the police's job to restore law and order, it's our job in families and communities to restore hope and a sense that there is a future for young people that is worth living and working for.

We believe that kids can and do change their ways and everybody deserves a second chance. Parents need advice and support to help make this happen and community-led initiatives can work where institutions fail.

One young man I know was constantly depressed and always tired. He lives in south London and his two goals in life were to be a successful rapper and to live beyond 21. He has just turned 16. He doesn't look like he eats or sleeps properly and was kicked out of school for stealing. He refused to go to a pupil referral unit and his mother thought he would be safer at home. He was out of full-time education for more than a year.

Now with tuition help, he is mastering the basic maths that he should have learnt by the end of primary school. He is also writing poetry and is motivated to take exams and go to college. He has even said that his short spell in a secure unit helped him to decide to change his life. He realises that he has to get out of the street lifestyle in which "you're born alone and die alone". Hopefully, he will get the chance to at least achieve his second life goal.

We know from watching the news and YouTube what young people who have learnt to no longer think or care about consequences are capable of doing on the streets of London and beyond.

Yet when a human rights charity bid that I worked on was submitted both to the Lottery-funded Jubilee People's Millions Fund and the Ministry of Justice to engage and train vulnerable and "at risk" girls and boys from seven high-crime boroughs in London to become youth media ambassadors (including workshops on using social media to promote personal and community safety) it was rejected and the charity hasn't the funds to continue.

Elsewhere, London Mayor, Boris Johnson, promised at a summit in August 2010 attended by key representatives from the black communi- ty, that he would deliver a mentorship scheme for 1,000 vulnerable and "at risk" young people with 1,000 mentors by the summer of this year.

This promise was repeated in community conversations that Boris led in Southwark, Haringey, Hackney, Croydon and Waltham Forest. More than 1,700 mentors have already signed up for the scheme and are still waiting for something to happen.

Rather than awarding the contract to a consortium including the children's charity Barnados, and the Tavistock Institute, experts on group and organisational behaviour, and led by specialist community-based organisations who have both the credibility and track record of delivering such a scheme, Boris hijacked the process and enlisted the University of East London and the founder of the Eastside Young Leaders Academy, which does not have a lengthy track record of delivering such a big scheme.

Such practices just add to the deep frustration of professionals within communities who want to make a difference to young people.

Lastly, six free-school bids for community-led schools of excellence and leadership for urban youth in London were rejected by the Department for Education. Supporters of these bids, myself among them, have come together and issued a joint letter to Michael Gove, requesting a meeting and asking for his department to reconsider their decisions.

We argued that as London continues to suffer rises in violent youth crime, the need for credible, effective and good-quality educational provision for underachieving youth in the inner cities is desperately acute. We wrote this before the riots – and at the time of writing have had no reply.

Depressing, isn't it? Well thought-out and innovative community-led solutions, which give a signal of hope and help to young people in need, are not being recognised nor resourced. In this, we have a lot in common with the police.

We are both front-line community professionals who have not been given the means to do our jobs properly; we are highly visible and held responsible for the failings of a few.

So what is the answer? First, we need to watch, listen to and understand the messages that children and young people are sending us. We need to be able to make distinctions between those with criminal or anarchic intent who are looting, killing and profiting from social unrest and disorder; those who don't know their left from their right and are getting themselves drawn into madness and badness and, finally, those who have legitimate cause for grievance and peaceful protest.

We need to come together as partners to analyse and assess the situation, strategically and locally. We need to plan how we finance and implement bold community-led solutions, which generate tangible results for young and local people.

We need to get around the table with the powers that be and put pressure on them to reverse short-sighted and damaging decisions which work against families and communities.

We need to see short-term wins and long-term gains in education, jobs and enfranchisement for those living on the edge of society. As events in other parts of the world teach us, it's difficult to win a war against those who have nothing to lose.

This is going to take penetrating observations, hard listening, tough talking, difficult decision-making and sustained action. But for all our sakes, we need to walk and talk solutions to the riots and to dampen the fires that led to the events of early August.



Patricia Lee-Sang is a former headteacher of an international school and former Deputy Principal Race Relations Adviser for London, who has lived and worked in Europe and Africa.She is the Director of Aspire Education Group

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Supply Teachers Needed in Bungay

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers neede...

Year 6 Teacher

£111 - £163 per day + £111 - £163 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The posi...

Experienced Creche Assistant - Lambeth - September 2014

£64 - £69 per day + Competitive London rates of pay : Randstad Education Group...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices