JUDGE ANDREW BECROFT ON YOUTH OFFENDING AND EDUCATIONSource: North & South Magazine. Photo by Mark White Click Here to listen to text
New Zealand Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft’s previous role was as the Principal Youth Court Judge. In this role he was a leading proponent of education as a protective factor against youth offending and in recent years had highlighted increasing concerns as to the number of young offenders who have slipped through the educational net because of undiagnosed learning disabilities. He also noted that schools and teachers are 'firstline crime fighters' with the best chance of helping youths out of a cycle of crime, and that young people outside the school system are virtually the whole of the problem in Youth Court.
Judge Becroft highlighted the correlations between youth offending and disengagement in education in a 2014 background paper 'Issues facing the Education Sector: A Youth Court perspective'. The introduction to this paper reads:
As Principal Youth Court Judge, I claim no expertise in education law or policy. However, to be involved in the Youth Court is daily to confront young offenders, almost all of whom are not part of the education system. While there are no accurate figures, anecdotally it is thought that up to 65-70% of offenders in the Youth Court (and only the most serious 20% of offending results in Youth Court charges) are not formally "engaged" with the education system. The word "engaged" is used advisedly. Technically, many are not truants, because they are not meaningfully enrolled at a secondary school to be a truant from. They are simply not in the formal education system. They are drifting. They are between schools. They may have been excluded, are not now enrolled elsewhere, or are awaiting placement in alternative education. Or they have drifted our of alternative education and are waiting for a course, seeking employment, or sadly, and too often, simply doing nothing…