Thursday, June 29, 2006


The LSE/ARCH conference on children's databases happened on Wednesday: you can access slides and notes from the various presentations on the 'Children: over-surveilled, under-protected' website. There are even mugshots of all of the speakers.

There's been quite a bit of media attention in the past few days, eg the
Telegraph, BBC News and Daily Mail, and today there's a comment piece in the Guardian. This is all the more welcome because of its accuracy - it captures nicely the fact that the 'Children's Index' is only one element in a whole system of information-sharing and assessment of children.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The reality gap

Worth reading George Monbiot in the Guardian today, looking at the rise in mental health problems among young people against the culture of impossible dreams and declining social mobility:
The gulf between what we are told we should be and what we are is growing. As children's expectations lose contact with reality, they are torn between their inner lives of fame and fortune and the humdrum reality their minds no longer inhabit. Advertising (and the businesses supported by it) is not the clattering of the stick in the swill bucket that Orwell perceived as much as the carrot that keeps the donkey moving. You are never allowed to come close enough to eat, however hard you pull. An economy driven by dissatisfaction could scarcely fail to cultivate mental illness.


Sorry we're quiet on the blogging front: the run-up to today's conference has eaten our time for the past few days.

Various stories about the planned Children's Index have been appearing in the media: the Telegraph and Daily Mail both have items on their websites, and no doubt there will be more in the next few days.

If you don't know what all the fuss is about, try our other blog for more information.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Childcare costs

There we were, studiously doing some research on the Childcare Bill, when we stumbled across this story:
Insurers have withdrawn a policy covering the costs of an immaculate conception and the upbringing of the Christ-child which had been taken out by three sisters in the event of the second coming.

Essex-based confirmed it had provided the £1m policy, but said it was reviewed on Thursday following complaints. The firm said the women from Inverness had renewed the policy since 2000. The cover was meant to pay for the cost of bringing up Christ if one of them has a virgin birth.


A quick reminder about next Tuesday's conference. If you're intending to come, make sure that you email for a place - there are not many left and we can't guarantee admission to anyone who turns up on the day.

Conference - Children: Over Surveilled, Under Protected

ARCH and LSE are putting on an afternoon conference in the Hong Kong Theatre of the London School of Economics on 27th June from 2-5pm to outline the range of databases that hold information about children, to clarify the distinction between 'child protection' and 'safeguarding children', and to examine the evidence for the government's current 'early intervention' policy.

For more information see:

As places are very limited, please email: as soon as possible if you would like to attend.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Antisocial adults

Thanks to Liberal England for this story:

People are lying to the police about anti-social behaviour to get groups of children dispersed, police have said. A senior policeman admitted there was an increasing trend of residents calling to complain about innocent behaviour, like playing football.

Inspector Andy Ramsey, from Leicestershire Police, said incidents were exaggerated or even invented to ensure officers intervened.

Thank heavens the Leicestershire Police take a robust view of the situation - football-playing children in York might not be so lucky. The story ties in neatly with an editorial about the other current preoccupation in this week's Children Now:

Limiting inappropriate advertising to children would be helpful, but the fact is that even a complete ban on advertising junk food to children, in any medium, will still not stop the rise in childhood obesity. Allowing children the sorts of opportunities for outdoor physical play that were the norm in the 1970s and 80s would be far more effective.

Achieving that will be far more difficult, however, in the face of a culture of 8am to 6pm wraparound organised childcare, ever-shrinking and disappearing school playgrounds, fears about stranger danger and traffic, the gradual removal of anything resembling challenge and interest in dedicated play facilities due to safety concerns, and a general suspicion of children and young people in public places.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Ostrich position

Well, who’d have thought that a doctor speaking at an obscure medical conference in Prague could provoke such a storm? Dr Laurence Shaw, deputy medical director of the Bridge Centre fertility clinic, told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology:
"Before we condemn our teenagers for having sex behind the bike sheds and becoming pregnant, we should remember that this is a natural response by these girls to their rising fertility levels.

"Society may 'tut, tut' about them, but their actions are part of an evolutionary process that goes back nearly two million years; whilst their behaviour may not fit with western society's expectations, it is perhaps useful to consider it in the wider context."
Pretty straightforward, really: puberty triggers hormones that ensure people are strongly inclined to co-operate with nature’s chosen means of continuing the species. Is that controversial? Apparently so:
Shona Robison, the SNP's health spokeswoman, whose constituency in Dundee has rates of teenage pregnancy far exceeding the national average, called the remarks "flippant". "Maybe he should reflect on the effects of teenage pregnancy," she said. "In representing Dundee, I am well aware of the problems teenage pregnancy can cause girls. For many it leads to a life of poverty and a loss of opportunity. I doubt these are the things he would want for his own daughters."

Teresa Smith, chair of the Scottish Christian People's Alliance, said the comments were "completely outrageous". "Many things are an occurrence within nature but it does not mean they are the right thing to do," she said. "Girls of that age are not mature enough to bring up a baby. If they choose to have an abortion, there are long-term effects.

"Teenagers having sexual activity risk catching chlamydia and causing fertility problems. We should be promoting abstinence, not telling young people this is natural."
Well, isn’t an occurrence within nature by definition natural – unless it’s some kind of freak aberration? (Somehow that doesn’t seem likely in this particular case). Is it healthy or morally acceptable to tell young people that sex is dangerous, and babies destroy your life? And why does Shona Robison feel so het-up that she makes an offensively irrational reference to Dr Shaw’s daughters?

Before we are sent a barrage of comments written in capitals with triple punctuation marks, let’s make it quite clear that neither we, nor Dr Shaw, are saying that it’s desirable for someone to have a baby before their emotional maturity has caught up with their physical development, when they don’t have a stable relationship, and when they risk scuppering their own choices in life.

Dr Shaw merely states a biological fact and, being a doctor rather than a politician of some kind, the poor man didn’t realise that putting ‘teenager’ and ‘sex’ in the same sentence is enough to get any messenger shot here in the UK – the teenage pregnancy capital of Western Europe.

We’ve been doing hysteria and the “cover your ears, Matilda!” number for years, and it simply hasn’t worked. (Those pesky facts again). Rather than pretending that teenage sex is a dysfunction akin to stabbing someone or smoking crack, it may prove rather more effective to accept the useful reminder about the role of hormones in young peoples’ lives, the better to engage in some rational, grown-up thought about how we help them to cope with the confusing messages they trigger.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The cost of severing Connexions

The ‘Connexions Card’ – a Capita-run loyalty card scheme for 16-19s (see our other blog) - will at last receive the coup de grace. Capita was awarded the 7-year contract (worth £100m) for the project in 2001.

The original target was for 1.7 million students to own a Connexions Card. This was revised downwards as it became apparent the target would be missed. By the end of 2004, less than 55,000 students had used the Card. Our trusty calculator tells us that's just 3% of the original target.

Is Capita embarrassed by this failure? Far from it:
Capita said the end of the scheme was the result of a Department for Education and Skills (DfES) decision, and it expects to receive compensation. It was appointed to run the scheme for seven years from 2001, in a deal worth over £100m.

Capita has received £65.1m for the first five years of the project.

The DfES said all terms were under negotiation, and it expects to make an overall saving from the early closure of the scheme.
If you’ve the stomach for it, more on this story in the Telegraph.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Unsure Start

Research from Birkbeck has just confirmed the findings of an earlier evaluation of Sure Start: it is actively harming the most deprived families:
The government's flagship scheme to improve the lives of deprived families could be doing more harm than good, researchers warned today. While the £3bn Sure Start programme is benefiting some poor families, the most deprived families did worse in areas covered by the scheme, according to the study.

The research warned that the adverse effects of the scheme "might have greater consequences for society than the beneficial effects" because the poorest families account disproportionately for social problems such as crime and school disruption.

The study, by Birbeck College, University of London, and the national Sure Start evaluation team, found the scheme, which offers services to more than 660,000 children in England, was setting back the behaviour and development of young children in the most deprived households.
Let’s hope the government hastily revises its plans to quadruple the number of Sure Start schemes to 3,500 over the next 4 years, rather than insisting that they are “successfully helping the most vulnerable children and families”.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Schools to raid piggy-banks

So keen is the government to make good on its manifesto pledge of extended schools that its new guidance tells schools to dip into their core budgets to fund them, if necessary.
But head teachers voiced alarm over the latest developments. John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We support the agenda but if schools are expected to put more resources in, and it seems as though they are, they must get the money from the Government. Otherwise it's going to affect the budget for teachers' salaries, books, computers and so on."

The new guidance on planning and funding for extended schools also sets out which ctivities can and cannot be charged for. It states that schools may not charge for an activity that is part of the national curriculum or that leads to examinations, but that they may charge for additional sport, drama, music, clubs and courses such as first aid. It does not set out a minimum or maximum charge.
We seem to remember that the extended schools idea was sold on the basis that disadvantaged children would have the same opportunities enjoyed by the better-off, and that Ruth Kelly said:
"Extended schools will provide more chances for pupils to take courses and engage in activities that match their strengths and interests."
Well, only if you can afford it, it seems.

The emphasis seems now to be shifting firmly towards 'learning support' and bringing services together on the school site in order to remediate 'disaffected' pupils. In other words, yet another hydroponic lettuce* initiative.

*In case you're wondering: hydroponic lettuces are mass-produced indoors, without soil, in a stream of water. Computerised systems control the environment by monitoring things like temperature and nutrient levels, making adjustments as necessary.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Punch and Judy government

News this morning is that several parents are planning to challenge the government through the courts over city academies. As the NUT points out, this rather gives the lie to government claims that parents are ‘clamouring’ for new academies.

The thing that caught our eye, though, is the deployment of the increasingly familiar ‘blank denial’ tactic. The article lists some of the fundamental human rights problems with the powers that the new Education Act gives to city academies:

Some laws that maintained schools are compelled to abide by do not apply to academies. They do not, for example, always have to take a child with special educational needs (SEN) who has a statement naming the academy as the parents' preferred school.

On exclusions, while pupils in maintained schools can appeal to a fully independent panel against a decision to exclude them from school, a student at an academy must appeal to a panel that is usually appointed by the school itself. In some cases, this panel is the academy's governing body.

Some of the more controversial detail of academies' policies is contained in annexes to the main funding agreement; these can, in some cases, be changed unilaterally by the academy trust, without the say-so of the education secretary. Provisions for religious education, and the right of parents to withdraw their children from RE, are often contained in these annexes.
Add to that the fact that parliament’s own Joint Committee on Human Rights has expressed its concerns, and you might expect some kind of reasoned exposition by way of government response. Instead, we get this from the DfES:

"We totally reject the claim that parents or pupils in academies have fewer rights than those in any other school.”
Ah, so that's OK then. Sheesh, only joking...

"This is pantomime government!"
“No it isn’t!”
“Look, here are the facts. Yes it is!”
“La la la, can’t hear you. No it isn’t!”
"We can prove it is!"

…repeat and fade...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Forget the shoes: Daddy needs a new laptop

A report on the Barnardo’s and WhizzKidz campaign to improve equipment provision to disabled children provides a good example of the kind of complaints we hear on a regular basis:
According to the Barnardo’s and Whizz-Kidz report, up to three quarters of families do not get the equipment they need.

It also found that families experienced an average waiting time of between six to nine months, with the longest at 14 months.

This was against good practice recommended by government standards for NHS wheelchair services. These stipulate minimum response times of 15 working days for locally-held stock, 30 days for orders from manufacturers and 30 to 65 for made to measure.

Whizz-Kidz, which provides mobility equipment to children and young people, did a survey of families it had helped last year and found that nearly half of local services could not provide equipment because of lack of funds.
The government is willing to spend £millions on databases that will purportedly help practitioners decide what services each child needs, but children whose needs are patently obvious aren’t getting even the most basic equipment. Where exactly are these services that need to be administered via state-of-the-art IT systems and professional conferencing?

As one parent says: “You feel like you have to fight for everything when you have a disabled child, and the kids are fighting for their independence”. Well, we’ve been hearing variations on that theme for years. And if you think getting a wheelchair is difficult, just try applying for Disability Living Allowance for an autistic child.

Drugs: raising the stakes

You’d think that, by now, government would have realised that young people do all kinds of things they shouldn’t, just as they always have done. They get drunk, do drugs, cross thresholds forbidden to them, eat too many crisps etc. We're willing to bet that wannabe rock stars do a lot of this stuff in spades, too.

That’s not to say adults can simply ignore it, but dealing reasonably calmly with the blips, until one’s child has reached maturity with a relatively unblighted life, is on the job description for parenthood. And now the government wants to
raise the height of the hurdles:
Somewhere in Britain this morning there will be several hundred worried families. Their children will have been caught with cannabis last night and they will be charged with either possession or dealing. The current system is a perilous game of chance, under which, although the risks of being caught are marginal, for the few who are the consequences can be ruinous…

Serious though this situation is, the future looks even grimmer. As our home affairs editor reported this week, new tough proposals drawn up by the Home Office would make drug users caught with even small amounts of cannabis - sufficient for just 10 joints - liable to be classified as dealers. The current maximum for this offence is 14 years. Drug policy has swung from one extreme to another in the space of just six months.
It’s instructive to consider the government’s stance alongside this bit of news:

Drug information charity DrugScope has demanded a meeting with the Department of Health (DoH) to speed up charity grant payments.

The move comes after the charity, along with 500 other voluntary organisations, suffered a four-month delay in receiving Section 64 grants, for charities that carry out the Government's health and social care goals.

Top-down bullying

A gob-smacking, appalling, abysmal story of bullying:
The bullying behaviour of an "autocratic" cathedral school headteacher drove her deputy out of her job, a tribunal ruled yesterday.

Catherine Maltbaek, head of the primary school of St Mary in Plymouth, Devon, was accused of the "worst case of bullying ever seen in the workplace". She humiliated her staff in front of pupils and parents, forcing deputy head Sue Preston and several others members of staff to quit, the tribunal panel heard.

One administrator fainted during a telling-off and Mrs Maltbaek berated others for eating at their desks or going to the toilet too often. On one occasion she is said to have repeatedly rung a bell in Mrs Preston's ear "like a town crier" to drown out her voice.
Um, this is a christian school? One can only wonder what the children in that place suffer.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Moral panic

Worth reading Polly Toynbee today on the current preoccupation with knife crime and the threat of yet more knee-jerk policy-making:

Knife crime is the panic of the day. Recently there have been some horrible murders, including those of a brave student defending a woman on a train, a father of three stabbed after spending a day volunteering, and a popular 15-year-old knifed outside his school gates - all heartbreaking deaths.

They were enough to send the press phoning round police stations for more hair-raising knife tales: there were plenty to be found. It was, they said, "a wave", "a spate", "an epidemic"...

But horrible though these crimes are, there is no upsurge. In 1995 there were 243 murders with sharp instruments; 10 years later there were slightly fewer, at 236 last year. Over the decade the average weekly number of knife murders has been four and a half - and recently, during this panic, there have been no more than four knife murders a week. Anecdotes stick horribly in the memory, but the figures tell another story.

Knowing that knifings are not "out of control" but probably in a steady state would calm public nerves. But instead of explaining that, the government promises to lock everyone up. John Reid is considering amending the violent crime reduction bill to introduce a mandatory five-year sentence for carrying a knife.

One thing that puzzles us is an assertion later in the piece that “Youth Inclusion and Support Panels cut 15 crimes per £1,000 spent.” We’re not aware that the long-promised YISP evaluation has been completed, so it’s hard to see how this claim can be made. The evaluation of its little brother, the Youth Intervention Programme, was less than fulsome:
There is evidence that the majority of the top 50 are being arrested less since their engagement on the programme, and for less serious offences. In addition, there has been a reduction in exclusion from schools (albeit the data on this issue is far from comprehensive). On the other hand, there is inescapable evidence that the programme appears to be falling short of the current target that three quarters of projects will have experienced a 30% reduction in crime by March 2004.

The whole agenda of ‘predicting’ which children will become offenders is in any case
highly controversial, as we’ve said before. There’s a great deal more about these 'predictive' youth offending systems on our database masterclass blog.

Pulling a fast one?

Industry-sponsored software copyright watchdog, the Federation Against Software Theft’ (FAST), is throwing its weight around in schools.

A couple of weeks ago it threatened to prosecute any school found to have unauthorised software on its system, and warned that its ‘Operation Tracker’ (described as "the CCTV of the Internet") would find them out.

The move was criticised by the president of the Open Source Consortium, Mark Taylor:
"The message is threatening, both overtly and subliminally. Anyone who has worked with LEAs, head teachers and school governors knows that they are honest, hard working, harassed and generally worried individuals," said Taylor. "Associating them with criminal intent is... well, eyebrow-raising, to say the least."

Taylor said that education professionals are focused on dealing with "violence, drugs, bullying, truancy, shrinking budgets and escalating government regulations", not "worrying about whether they've got licences for anything anyone has ever installed on their ageing networks".
FAST now faces accusations of seeking to indoctrinate children by seeking input into the new A-Level in applied ICT. Mark Taylor comments:
“when an organisation has to resort to "indoctrination of children" to promote its cause then it’s usually a sign that something is wrong.

"Schools would be better advised educating their pupils on the value of free speech and discussing the relative economic and practical benefits of open source and proprietary production methods than intimidating them with counter-productive propaganda from big businesses"

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Conference 27th June - Children: Over Surveilled, Under Protected

Children: Over Surveilled, Under Protected
ARCH and LSE are putting on an afternoon conference in the Hong Kong Theatre of the London School of Economics on 27th June from 2-5pm to outline the range of databases that hold information about children, to clarify the distinction between 'child protection' and 'safeguarding children', and to examine the evidence for current government policy.

For more information see:

As places are very limited, please email: as soon as possible if you would like to attend.

Swine and the Pearls

We're very glad to see that the downright abusive Pearl duo have at last been outed in the Guardian. If you haven't come across them before:

The Pearls are evangelical Christians who believe corporal punishment is "doing it God's way". With a mailing list of tens of thousands of parents, the Pearls say that the justification for their approach is in scripture: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24).

Chastening begins early. "For the under-one-year-old, a little,10- to 12-inch long, willowy branch (stripped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient," writes Michael Pearl. With older children he advises: "After a short explanation about bad attitudes and the need to love, patiently and calmly apply the rod to his backside. Somehow, after eight or 10 licks, the poison is transformed into gushing love and contentment. The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand-new child emerges. It makes an adult stare at the rod in wonder, trying to see what magic is contained therein."

More examples - including the DIY guide to beating children with plumbing pipe - over on the 'Dare to Know' blog. Sick, and sickening, stuff.That anyone can publish a child abuse instruction manual with impunity is horrifying. That there are people willing to follow its precepts is frightening.

The curious incident of the children who stood still

Interesting lecture at the RSA last night: Daniel Neyland talking about the use of CCTV cameras. One anecdote about time he spent in a CCTV control room apalled several of the audience, to judge by the questions afterwards.

Evening in a town centre, and nothing is going on. The control-room staff pan around, and suddenly notice four children standing still. Not breaking windows or shouting abuse – just standing there. The staff get uneasy: why are they there? After much speculation,
a police squad car is detailed to go and find out: screen shots of two police officers questioning the children, who are vigorously shaking their heads. They turn out their pockets. Another squad car turns up. Two more officers join in. Eventually the children are allowed to go – although there’s a brief flurry of excitement when one of the children reaches into his pocket and unwraps…a sweet.

Ah well, just another four kids who think the police are the pits. That’s life.

DNA database goes travelling

For several months, Grant Shapps MP has been protesting about the retention of thousands of innocent children’s DNA samples on the National DNA Database – see his campaign pages.

It now emerges that DNA data is being shared with
law agencies overseas.

Junior Home Office Minister Joan Ryan said requests for international profiles were rare until comparatively recently. Data on foreign requests for information was not collated until 2004.

In another parliamentary answer, she said the Identity Cards Act allowed information to be shared with overseas authorities for criminal investigations and proceedings.

Lib Dem home affairs spokeswoman Lynne Featherstone, who obtained the figures, said they were a "bad omen" for the identity card register.

"There are no real safeguards in place to control this huge database which leaves it open for misuse - and now we find out it's not only being misused in our country but also internationally," she said.

Well, quite. And presumably, once the relevant sections of the ID Card Act come into force, we can expect a steady trickle of ‘soft’ police intelligence to find its way overseas.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The feeding frenzy

More stories about the need to control children's bodies today. Apparently, having a strict mother makes you fat:
A new study found that disciplinarian women ended up with six-year-olds who were nearly five times more likely to be overweight than the children of those who treated their offspring with flexibility and respect but also set clear rules.
On the other hand, teenage girls think they're fat when they're not:

The lives of thousands of teenage school girls are being blighted by unfounded worries about their weight, according to the most comprehensive health education survey, published yesterday.

Nearly 60 per cent of girls aged 12 to 15 described themselves as overweight when only 15 per cent met the medical criteria for excess body fat.

The findings prompted the Schools Health Education Unit, which carries out the annual survey, to issue an appeal for an end to the "obsession" with skeletal body shapes in the media and fashion

It strikes us that it's not just the fashion industry that needs to end its obsession.

Monday, June 05, 2006

99.8% of knife-crime victims don't bother to report it. Huh?

More about delinquent youth, this time in the Guardian. According to their figures (source not given):
Number of homicides in 2004-05 caused by a blade or sharp instrument: 236
Number of people who were victims of knife crime in 2005: 2,859
Proportion of schoolchildren aged 15 and 16 who admit to routinely carrying a knife: 1 in 4
Percentage of schoolchildren who carry knives and admit having used them against people: 16%
Number of knife offences, including possession, recorded by police last year: 4,900
Percentage of those convicted of possession of knives who were jailed in 2004: 14%
We hate to be picky, but apart from the fact that these figures are nothing like those quoted in the Home Office’s ‘Delinquent Youth Groups’ report, they don’t actually add up.

The school population is 7.5 million. If 16% of ‘schoolchildren’ (are they different from ordinary children?) apparently admit to having used knives against someone else, then logically there should be 1,200,000 victims of knife crime. But there were 2,859 victims. Did the remaining 1,197,141 victims not think it was worth reporting?

We’re not condoning knife crime, or trying to pretend it isn’t serious, but these wild and conflicting figures don’t help anyone who is trying to sort out what is really going on. They merely fan public hysteria and provoke over-steer amongst policy-makers.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chicken-licken the sky is falling

More ‘out-of-control youth’ stories from the Home Office, and irritating that the Independent has bought into it. Take a look at our blog entry for last Thursday, and then read this sloppy story.

We can see we’re going to have to expand on that DYG Report to put some flesh on the bones:

“Almost half a million youngsters belong to teenage gangs that regularly break the law and intimidate their communities.”
That’s 6% of all young people. Regularly? The relevant study criterion is that they had broken the law together at least once during the last 12 months
“Many take illegal drugs, carry weapons and have been involved in serious violence, as well as vandalising property and frightening passers-by.”
Out of that 6% of young people:
51% had taken drugs
13% had carried a knife
29% had used ‘force or violence’ – note the absence of the word ‘serious’
36 % were responsible for graffiti
31% had been ‘breaking, damaging or destroying things’
40% had threatened or frightened people
“A Home Office study of gang culture - the first official report into the phenomenon - paints a bleak picture of the lure of youth gangs…”
Bleak? Hang on a minute, 7.5 million young people do not belong to gangs. That’s at least 6 million less than the press and the Home Office have led the general public to believe.
“The fear is that some youngsters could graduate to the adult criminal gangs involved in drug-dealing and serious theft found in most major British cities.”
What? Whose fear? Where does that come from? It’s not even mentioned in the report! Some evidence would be nice.
“A recent study by Edinburgh University...discovered that youngsters were often prompted to join gangs after they became victims of crime themselves.”
Often? What the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime actually said was that being a victim of crime made it 7 times more likely that a young person would commit a crime.

As an aside, this same research team said that any contact with youth justice agencies at any level makes young people
more likely to offend. Strange that the Home Office didn't issue a press release on that particular story. Perhaps if they had read it properly they wouldn’t have said:
"The Home Office works in partnership with other organisations, including the Youth Justice Board and Department for Education and Skills, to prevent children and young people starting to offend."
Well, yes, that's what researchers are telling you! It's part of the problem - not the solution! Talk about selective listening... We've already outlined the Home Office's myriad ‘early intervention’ youth justice schemes over on our other blog.

Quite honestly, you’d think the Home Office had enough to do just at the moment. On the other hand, I guess a spot of 'delinquent youth' shroud-waving is a good crowd-pleaser. It does make us rather afraid of what they're about to do, though.