Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 29 May 2008

How can I tutor my 13-year-old London pupils about violence on the streets without making them even more anxious?

Hillary's Advice

First of all congratulate yourself for being a good and sensitive tutor. You are not brushing a difficult subject under the carpet. You have recognised how worried your pupils – and, probably, particularly your boys -- are about this, and you have also recognised the sensitivity of the subject and how, if you get it wrong, it might rachet up their anxieties.

There are so many topics to be covered here, from basic morality, to the realities of the streets. You could look at gang and group loyalties, drink and drugs, the penalties of knife crime, and how to manage frustration and anger. You should certainly aim to give them some practical tips. Your students might pretend to be super-cool about all this, but underneath they’ll be listening intently for ways that they can stay street smart and out of trouble.

You also need to try and discuss -- and foster -- their self-esteem. Although this idea has become a monumental cliché, the bottom line is that young people who feel good about themselves are far more likely to steer clear of bad situations than those who don’t.

You could also think about getting someone in – maybe from the police, or a charity such as Outside Chance, that tries to turn boys away from crime – to talk about what damage knives can do, and what the penalties are for those who carry and use them.

And ask them for their ideas and solutions. Young people are wonderfully creative thinkers, especially about things of direct and immediate concern to themselves.