Great Britain

Lessons from the left behind: The lifelong consequences of missing school

S

itting on the pavement on Oxford Street, between the entrance to Gap and the Underground station, Darryl is explaining how he was expelled from his school in Bromsgrove at the age of 14. “I was a little s**t, but I got blamed for things I didn’t do. I’d had a governors’ meeting where they said I had 10 strikes and I was out, but they booted me out on my sixth for absconding.”

But absconding from school is rarely an isolated issue. “When I was 12 my parents split,” he continues. “My maternal nan brought me up, but when my dad kept the house she had to move out.” Left alone with his father Darryl, now 40, recalls how he was abused. “He would come home and start every night. It wouldn’t matter if I was asleep or not. He’d start hitting me because he was always on that,” he says, drinking from an imaginary beer can.

“My dad was either at work, the pub, or in his bed and I was left to my own devices. I had the run of a four-bedroom house, feeding myself and everything – I wasn’t getting to school until 12 in the afternoon, I just didn’t care.” Even now, as he speaks, he’s apathetic, as if telling the story causes the same tide of disillusionment to wash over him just as it had 28 years ago.

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