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Reducing youth crime and school exclusion: Dorset study offers solutions

Published: 
29 January 2002

The results of a successful social worker-led initiative to tackle youth crime, truancy, drug-taking and vandalism in Dorset are published in a Home Office report issued this month. The Dorset Healthy Alliance Project, which was evaluated by a team led by emeritus Professor Colin Pritchard of the University of Southampton, witnessed a 50 per cent reduction in truancy.

The three-year project centred on a collaboration between families, teachers and social workers to combat youth crime. A school-based child and family support service was established, led by a principal social worker and a small team of pastoral teachers. Two sets of primary and secondary schools from seriously disadvantaged areas were compared over the three year period.

In that time, the schools and community involved in the project witnessed a 50 per cent reduction in truancy, and significant reductions in levels of theft, fighting, drug taking and vandalism. Other benefits included improved teachers' morale, reduced aggression in the classroom, improved educational performance, and a marked reduction in pupils being excluded from school.

"The results of this project underline the fact that prevention is better than cure," says Professor Pritchard.

"The social work team was able to crack down on truancy, which is both a symptom and a cause of alienated youth and criminal behaviour, by giving the child and family the support they desperately needed.

"The key," he adds, "is that the team was adequately resourced and accessible to child, family and teacher. All the groups worked together to provide the pupil with the best opportunity to maximise their education. This was reflected in the best-ever GCSE results for the schools involved and a cost-effective reduction in anti-social behaviour."

The report entitled 'A family-teacher-social work alliance to reduce truancy & delinquency- The Dorset Healthy Alliance Project' is published by the Home Office. R.D.S. Occasional Paper No. 78 The Home Office. P.70.

Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrates its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £215 million.

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