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PISA2018 – 3.3 The 2011 riots in English cities

Following the general election in the U.K. severe budget reductions were imposed by the new Coalition government. Many analyses have shown that it is the poorer sections of society that will suffer, especially because of the negative impact on the welfare programs funded by local councils.

In August 2011 riots erupted in a number of English cities following the shooting by police of a young male initially believed to be carrying a weapon and threatening police, an assertion later acknowledged as incorrect. Cars were trashed and burned, stores were looted, young people were run down by a car whilst trying to save another person. Prime Minister [James] [sic] David Cameron and others talked of a breakdown in family life and of parents failing to control their children and instil into them a sense of right and wrong. Police were given extra powers to arrest and charge people behaving in a grossly disorderly manner.

In the aftermath little attempt was made by authorities to recall the numerous reports which had pointed to the severe outcomes of poverty, inequality and neglect though some commentators did indeed point to these issues. The riots crystallised the fear and loathing felt by the older and wealthy. Magistrates were advised to disregard normal sentencing guidelines and deal harshly with young people arrested during the riots.

Amongst the numerous comments seeking to explain the reasons for the riots two can be noted. Camila Batmanghelidjh, who has spent decades working with poor and disenfranchised youth, acknowledged the mayhem was unacceptable but pointed to social factors: the divide between the rich and the poor exacerbates the problem, things that erode young people’s sense of dignity and keeps shaming them, repeatedly, into the corners of society… [so that] violence becomes the currency of survival’; and many neighbourhoods are propped up by the drug trade, violence in effect becoming the norm.

An extract from Education Reform: the Unwinding of Creativity and Intelligence Chapter 3 Community and Inequality – Part 1: Creating an Enabling Environment