Brooke Kinsella, the Eastenders' actress, whose relative, Ben Kinsella, was stabbed to death in London recently has produced a report for the government arguing that we must have lessons in school on knife crime. This is an idea I supported in my book, Yob Nation
, but since then my thoughts have developed, having examined a great deal of research and interviewed many people about this problem. Lessons are just part of the solution, the real solution though is getting everyone involved in their local community. One key way of doing this is by realising local schools as centres of the community.
One of the problems at the moment is that British society is very fragmented with the rich living in their fortified bubbles and the poorest feeling marginalised and disenfranchised. Getting everyone to opt into the local school will solve a lot of problems; troublesome teenagers becomes everyone's business, not just long-suffering teachers. I feel empowered now to talk to local youths who are causing trouble in my urban area because I know a lot of them indirectly through my son's local school. And talking to them works: youths know that they are being watched, that there are boundaries, that their school will know if they are badly behaved outside it. It's when you start saying hello to the hoodies that things begin to change; you don't have to hug them or love them, but saying hello and having a word makes a big difference.
Obviously, this isn't the only solution. The Families and Schools Together Programme
has shown that getting parents more involved in school life really helps the behaviour of problem children and improve their life prospects immensely.
I was talking on BBC News about these issues today.