A while ago the new headmaster of a large state run secondary school told me about his plan to stop excluding children – no more problem solving by binning the apparent source of the problem. He thought that of all the children who most needed the values and discipline a good school offers, it was the kids most likely to be kicked out.
So he wanted to understand why his school had excluded pupils in the past.
He looked through the figures, read reports, spoke to colleagues and then started contacting parents of excluded pupils.
He spoke to dozens of people. “At first there was no pattern, every case was unique, some surprising”, he said. “But after I thought about it for a while I reluctantly concluded one thing stood out: each child who had been excluded lacked a single adult who they knew had faith in them, who they could be sure loved them”
It was a chilling conclusion and these comments sprang back to mind when I read about David Cameron’s Hug a Hoodie speech.
The leader of the opposition was arguing that disaffected young people – characterised by the hoodie – need to be approached in new ways. Essentially he was arguing that anti social young people need more love. Not just love – but certainly a generous dose of it.
It strikes me as a sincere comment on his part and I applaud politicians for expressing their moral values.
But it begs the question just what does this have to do with politicians? What is the government’s role in encouraging us all to love each other more?
It was exactly that question he was asked in Balsall Heath in Birmingham on Friday after he had given a Chamberlain Lecture on government and communities. You can listen to his full answer here, but in short he said “probably not very much”.
Government is well equipped to lock someone up but not to hug someone. Roll on the politician who cracks this one!