THE BLOG

Why Schools Can Be About More Than Just Academics

11/06/2013 17:41 BST | Updated 11/08/2013 10:12 BST

From our first crush, to our first bully, life at school is an education based on more than just academia. Becoming aware about the idiosyncrasies of life is all part of the learning experience and our schools have the ability to facilitate this in so many colourful ways.

Schools can and should stand as shining beacons that teach children not only how to understand the world but also how to interact with it.

Take for instance educating children about crime and prisons - a subject that has long been close to my heart. While I would love to see the school curriculum include a programme to raise awareness around the subject, I am conscious that this is very unlikely.

However, there is evidence to suggest that something does need to be done to better educate children about the consequences of anti-social behaviour in order to help curb the growing trend of youth crime.

It is no coincidence that there is a direct correlation between the levels of youth crime and cuts in youth services across the UK, which in recent years has been up to 75 per cent in some areas of the country. Young people who were previously occupying themselves productively, are once more back on the streets with nothing to do. Indeed the number of children involved in the London riots the year before last brought with it a scary realisation that more can and should be done to quell this stemming tide.

It is at this point that the voluntary sector is being looked upon to help where schools and local councils are unable. One such organization that I am personally involved in is the 'No Way Trust', which aims to educate young people by bringing the realities of the consequences of crime into the classroom.

The trust runs a programme called 'Prison! Me? No Way!' A practical workshop designed to both entertain and educate children through practical learning. Through the programme, a year group in a school can be transformed for the day as lessons morph into exciting practical workshops led by professionals in the field of crime.

Local police are invited to deliver facts on the realities and consequences of violent crime, while drug dogs sniff out tennis balls, hidden around the classroom to show how illegal substances are detected. The Fire Brigade warn of the very serious nature of playing with fire and prison officers dispel common myths about what prison is really like, with children even being invited to step inside a replica mobile prison cell, a sobering experience for many children. On occasions, and where appropriate, serving inmates will even visit the schools in order for the children to hear about prison life from the people who really know.

My point is, if our schools are to remain more than institutions of academia, if we want them to remain the backbone of our communities and a moral compass as well as an educational one, then we need to open up our schools to the support and involvement of local communities and organizations looking to do just that. For me, a great place to start is to focus on the consequences of anti-social behaviour. By overcoming this at an early stage in our children's education, we are already taking a bold step into a better society for all.