01/03/2005

Gang culture 'widespread', schools report finds

Gang culture is 'perceived to be widespread' in England's schools, a report by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) has found.

The education watchdog said that one in five of the secondary schools visited reported that problems with gangs were perceived although few schools had firm evidence of it.

The report found that incidents of weapon carrying were rare in most schools, with, at most, one incident per year in 60% of the schools visited, while under 30% said that one incident per term might occur and fewer than 10% estimated a figure equivalent to two per term.

Drug abuse was found to be a "daily challenge" among some older pupils, although the report said that this was more common in pupil referral units (PRUs) and colleges than schools.

Ofsted also found that pupils displaying withdrawn, anxious and depressed behaviour were "potentially under-identified" in all schools. The report stated that a third of primary schools, special schools and PRUs and more than half of the secondary schools visited had incidents of self-harm among pupils, although it also said that a very small number of pupils were usually involved.

The new report stressed that the large majority of pupils work hard and behave well and that most schools and other education settings successfully managed pupil behaviour. However, the report also stated that up to half of the pupils in some of the primary and secondary schools visited showed "challenging behaviour". Ofsted's annual report, published in February also said that the proportion of good or better behaviour in secondary school pupils had declined from over three quarters to two thirds since 1997 and there had been no reduction in the proportion of unsatisfactory behaviour.

Schools inspectors visited 78 nurseries, mainstream and special schools, PRUs, secure training centres and colleges in Camden, Croydon, Durham, North Somerset, Shropshire, Stockport, Sandwell and Wiltshire.

The Ofsted report said that "strong leadership" was "crucial" in order to effectively manage behaviour and said that adapting the curriculum to make it relevant to children's needs was also important.

David Bell, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, said: "Although the large majority of schools are orderly places where children behave well, it is worrying that unsatisfactory behaviour has not reduced over time. Unsatisfactory behaviour by a minority of pupils causes nuisance and distress and disrupts the learning of others and I hope this report helps early years centres, schools, colleges and LEAs tackle it effectively."

Ofsted made a number of recommendations for schools in the report, including the need to focus on improving the quality of teaching and the literacy and communication skills of difficult pupils.

The report further recommended that more systematic training should be provided for senior managers, teachers and assistants in behaviour management and child and adolescent development.

(KMcA/SP)

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