Young people on a knife edge

My blog this week wasn’t going to be around knives and all week I have sat deliberating whether to continue the debate around the tragic events that we’ve all seen and read in the media over the last 10 days.

Whether it’s the three young men within 2 miles in Birmingham or the two teenagers from Manchester and East London once again the debate around who’s to blame and who has the solution continues to rage but one thing for sure is we cannot continue to address this issue the same way.

crie scene

Click here to download the Opogo app on the App store and read this blog in full!

Alternatively, click here to download the Opogo app for android.


About our Community Expert

Raymond Douglas
Community Expert

Raymond Douglas is one of the UK’s leading thinkers and “doers” around working with at-risk pupils and young people. A prolific trainer and curriculum developer he has created numerous intervention programs tackling youth conflict & violence aiming to reduce the number of those at risk of life-threatening behaviour involving guns, gangs, knife crime & extremism.

Ray has been an approved trainer for governmental departments and currently delivers within schools colleges, universities and prisons. Ray has spoken at TEDx and has worked nationally and internationally training & advising schools and local authorities around reducing systemic youth violence.

Today his Minus Violence program reaches over 10,000 young people & pupils per year and 2019 see the release of his first book Gangs Kitchen.

The Blame Games and Student Behaviour

“We can curse the darkness or shine a light”

A Headteacher once said to me she knew when a new video game had been released because there was a spike in absences and lateness the day after!

Interesting thought really especially as both teachers and parents alike currently glaze over when they hear the word fortnight; to the extent that one primary school recently banned any mention of it in the classroom.


Click here to download the Opogo app on the App store and read this blog in full!

Alternatively, click here to download the Opogo app for android.

Murder media: Tackling violence promoted through music

Is Trap, Drill and Grime the new pop music? But more importantly who exactly is listening to it?

2019 sees the first trap song entering the UK charts entitled Air force.

You’d be forgiven to think it celebrates that classic trainer Nike Air Force one however when you delve deeper into the lyrics you see content that is indicative of the current climate around systemic youth violence:

I was on the roads tryna double up
Home, now I wanna see my P’s just triple
Had to run a boy down in my Air Force, p***ed
Cos now they got a crease in the middle

The wider debate around the effects of violent music, films and video games is something we can save for a future blog however I can safely say after delivering in over 20 children secure units and prisons I’ve never heard Adele blaring out of cell!


Click here to download the Opogo app for iPhones and read this blog in full!

Alternatively click here to download the Opogo app for android.

How to deal with cases of child protection

When children are supported and monitored by Children’s’ Social Services, this can be for a myriad of reasons, ranging from abuse, exposure to domestic violence, criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation and much more. The most common reason we tend to see is neglect.

Neglect itself comes in many different forms but it can have profound effects on the children in the family.

To be clear – the vast majority of parents love their children. But in some cases, parents are unable to keep their children safe or provide for them so they thrive and are safeguarded by those who are supposed to be in charge.

When we talk about neglect, this can be physical or emotional. In order to thrive, children don’t just need to be fed and clothed, educated and protected from harm. They also need to feel loved, be cared for, spoken to, nurtured and emotionally developed.

Some parents are unable to keep their children from harm as they may have mental health problems, are preoccupied by domestic violence, afflicted by substance abuse, have physical disabilities that prevent them from caring for their children adequately or simply do not have the understanding or parental skills it takes to raise children, keep them safe and nurture them.

Many children we see in alternative provision and pupil referral units are beyond parental control, a process which started from when the children were very young.

Untitled design (51)

When parents find themselves unable to parent their children effectively, they can display highly risky behaviours by the time they become teenagers.

Trying to get a 15-year-old to confirm when they have been left to their own devices for most of their childhood is a pretty difficult thing to do. All agencies involved can do is to minimise risk and educate the parent and the child as much as possible to prevent them from further harm.

Some of the most common issues we see when it comes to physical neglect are things like children not having access to food in the home and having to rely on school feeding them.

We also frequently buy students new clothing, from shoes to winter coats, if parents are non-responsive when we raise concerns about inadequate clothing or are claiming that their child is refusing to come to school because their shoes are broken.

Many of our students also live in unacceptable housing conditions, such as severe overcrowding, no bedding or sheets or furniture, which means many prefer t spend their time outside with friends or people who don’t have their best interested at heart.

We also often come across parents who don’t take their child to see the GP, the dentist or the optometrist. Parents also sometimes don’t take their child to A&E if they had an injury or an accident. All our key workers have taken some of their key students to various medical appointments at one point or another.

primary boy holding hand

Sometimes parents fail to report their children missing or don’t show any interest in where their child has been whilst they were away.

We also see parents who know that their children are abusing drugs or alcohol but are unable to put strategies in place to manage their behaviours, which often escalate very quickly.

We often also see emotional neglect in families, which has the same causes as physical neglect but can be willful and cruel.

The most common ways parents are emotionally neglectful towards their children is when they show their children no warmth, love or care. The child is ignored, excluded, side-lined from conversations or any parental interaction and the child is made to feel unloved, a perpetual burden to the parent’s lifestyle or goals. Children who have experienced this kind of neglect either withdraw and become sad or – this is when they usually get excluded from their mainstream education, act out in protest to the neglect they’re experiencing.

Either way, addressing and remedying a family situation when it has come this far is incredibly difficult.

Behaviours are entrenched and hard to shift and all social workers and school can do are to try and manage escalating behaviours and keep children safe whilst allowing them to remain with their families.



About our Community Expert


Astrid Schön
Community Expert

With 15 years of experience in mainstream schools and over four years in alternative provision, Astrid has worked with the most able as well as the most disadvantaged students in London.

She is currently the Deputy Head at London East AP, the pupil referral unit in Tower Hamlets, one of the largest in the UK, leading on many teaching and learning initiatives to address underachievement of students in both mainstream and AP. Astrid also leads on curriculum development, assessment and strategic development of the pupil referral unit.