Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Miltary Academies - An answer for troubled familes and failing pupils?

I live in the one of the most deprived wards in a two up two down terrace in one of the most deprived constituencies Hyndburn. I see every day the issues of youth failure. Either passive failure or worse, young people who enter the criminal justice system.

Respublica's report on Military Academies is interesting. I am sure it's emphasis will be about promoting positive self esteem in the most resistant of pupils and engaging in basis life skills. Those pupil's for whom poor parenting or negative peer pressure or a negative environment leaves schools unable in the few short hours they have with that pupil to help them. Unable to help them in life skills that should be taught outside of school. Morality, personal hygiene and health, self esteem and confidence.

Whilst I welcome Republica's contribution to teh debate, there are serious flaws. It is voluntary. Resistant pupils are resistant pupils and this brings me to a second point. Young people who are failing themselves in my ward, in my neighbourhood tend to live lives that perpetuate the circumstances in which they find themselves. There is no breakout or breakaway from the negative influences that surround them.

The criminal youth who gets a community sentence, remains in the bedsit with his mates or back at home with his parents. Whose friendships aren't broken but perhaps reinforced? The faux pas badge of honour, the celebrity that goes with deviance and 'taking on the system'. Someone who will be forced into leading a parallel life to that of their aspiring peer.

Military Academies as School Academies will fail where schools have failed before. They lack the deterrent, their students remain for most of their daily life, in a cycle of failure.

There are further risks. That these become identified as schools for miscreants. A type of borstal for the non-criminal, the failed family, the failed child. Where school companionship will not be with the affluent and aspiring but more likely the petty criminal. A place every parent and child will want to avoid. The system verses them.

I don’t want to negate this discussion despite such flaws. I want to be optimistic and believe that ‘tough love’ doubled with a sense that there won't be such failure. That you leave when you are successful. That those that benefit do not suffer shame or a counter reaction from those that surround them. That they have the opportunity to move away and move on - in that order.

Tough love schooling pilots in far removed places in the late 70’s early 80’s where I am told very successful. Living in my neighbourhood  I can see the advantages and why if done right, they may just succeed.
ResPublica today published our latest report Military Academies: Tackling disadvantage, improving ethos and changing outcome. To download the report, please click here.

A product of ResPublica's Models and Partnerships for Social Prosperity workstream, one of the three core workstreams of the ResPublica Trust, the publication is the first of a new format known as ResPublica Green Papers. Designed to provide a discussion platform for single exciting ideas in public policy, the purpose of these short, provocative pieces is to outline an argument which could spark a debate and prompt feedback and deeper reflection on the topic. Published and disseminated on-line, Green Papers are used as a blueprint for future ResPublica activity.

Written by ResPublica Director Phillip Blond and Patricia Kaszynska, Senior Researcher and Project Manager at ResPublica, the paper outlines a new approach to tackling intergenerational disadvantage and the social and educational dysfunction that cripples our most depressed areas. It proposes a new network of transformative educational institutions, Military Academies officially backed by the Armed Services and delivered by the Cadet Associations which would teach the skills and discipline required to alter outcomes for those who live in our most troubled towns and cities. This new educational offer would be the result of a partnership between the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Education.

Sponsored by the Armed Forces and delivered with and by the Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Associations (RFCAs) using their practical experience and existing governance support, the schools would be located in those regions in areas with the greatest concentration of young people who are NEET (not in employment, education or training) or at risk of becoming NEET.

The proposal for a new model of schooling offers one policy solution to the social ills that became manifest at the time of the riots in summer 2011. Looking at the educational background of the young people who took part in the riots, two-thirds were classed as having some form of special educational need, more than a third had been excluded from school during 2009-10, and more than one in 10 of the young people appearing before courts had been permanently excluded from school. The Military Academies would open up new opportunities for those lacking hope and aspiration; they would change the cultural and moral outlook of those currently engulfed by hopelessness and cynicism.

The paper also makes suggestions for a long-term plan for utilising the talent and expertise that currently exists in the Armed Forces as well as a way of assuring and extending the future Reserves’ intake. The programme would create an additional incentive for joining the UK’s Reserve Forces by providing significant employment opportunities and a clear career path for those considering membership. Ultimately, the paper suggests a way for extending the military ethos beyond its traditional confines so that it extends to those parts of society that could benefit the most from a renewed sense of purpose and aspiration.

This publication is part of a set of work encompassing reports, roundtables and conferences that addresses the problems of intergenerational deprivation and institutional disadvantage that compounds the lack of opportunities for too many children and young people in the UK. The overarching conviction uniting this work is that policy solutions capable of tackling these problems have to operate on the level of groups and communities as well as individuals. Past attempts at fighting destitution and disadvantage risk failure because they were designed to improve only individual life chances rather than to transform the outcome for deprived communities as a whole. Unhappily, the effect of many policies aiming to increase social mobility was to move a small number of individuals up the social ladder and leave their communities behind. With social mobility in the UK remaining at the level it was for those born in 1970 and the inequality gap haemorrhaging the aspirations of those at the bottom, a radical rethinking of public policy is needed.

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