Letter: A life of service to the community?

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Sir: Hamish McRae has captured the central issue in education and training for young people - it makes economic sense to bring them back into the mainstream ('Too young and too precious to waste', 12 May).

We derive not only income, but personal satisfaction, status and a place in society from our work. This is denied many young people because of their lack of marketable skills, and 80 per cent of young offenders leave school with no qualifications.

The economic savings arise not just from lower crime and lower social security benefits, but from the effect this has on families and victims of crime. The social benefits cannot be divorced from the economic ones.

Among the 'host of small things' that can be done is support for disaffected youngsters before they fall through the compulsory education net. Community-based projects which address young people's educational needs and keep them with their families have been shown to be successful.

It does not make economic sense to set up secure training units for the 12- to 14-year-old offenders. Experience shows that they are not successful.

South Glamorgan Training and Enterprise Council report makes a number of proposals, including the Compact programme and this could be enhanced if Professor Alan Smithers' proposals for vocational education in schools were adopted. Such education is clearly linked to teenagers' future lives which gives it credibility and purpose.

It is to be hoped that this report is widely read and stimulates debate in all sectors involved with young people.

Yours sincerely,


Research Officer


National Association for the Education and Guidance of Offenders


12 May