School hours should be extended to 6pm and social media classes added to the curriculum in a bid to tackle youth violence, ministers have been told.
Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft told the Commons that education was at “the heart of the solution” to youth violence as she advised the Government to adopt a number of new policies.
Ms Foxcroft, speaking in a debate on improving education standards, called for the abolition of permanent exclusions and pupil referral units (PRUs) — which she described as “pipelines to prison”.
The Lewisham Deptford MP said: “Schools are at the forefront of tackling youth violence, we do lots of school intervention programmes that say don’t carry a knife as you’re more likely to be stabbed, we know this message isn’t quite working, it isn’t quite getting through to them, they’re still carrying the knives, they’re still being involved in youth violence.
“I think we need to be making sure that we give them those far more positive messages and that training that says you are the future doctors, you are the future nurses, you are the future politicians, you know you can be what you want to be, and have the fear of losing that in the future be the reason why they’re too terrified to go and carry a knife.”
She added: “As policy makers I thoroughly believe we have a responsibility to intervene where we can, for example could we go and consider keeping our kids in school till 6pm or staggering their leaving hours or making sure that we’ve gone and got youth work in schools during those times.”
The Labour whip called on the Government to review “the merits of implementing a zero exclusions policy” and told how children placed in PRUs after exclusion had a “very low chance of achieving five good GCSEs”.
She added: “PRUs have often been called pipelines to prison, which is hardly surprising when more than half of the current prison population were excluded whilst at school.
“When we know something’s not working why are we still doing it? Why don’t we invest the money from the PRUs and go and put that in early intervention programmes.”
Ms Foxcroft gave social media classes as an example of early intervention, saying: “Many employers look for social media in new recruits to promote their business or reach out to new audiences.
“Why don’t we start teaching social media at school? Not only could these lessons help young people become more employable but social media is often pointed to as the reason for violence flaring up between young people.
“These lessons could also focus on keeping young people safe in a way that is relevant to the platform they use.”