Safer Schools

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How can we make our schools safer?

 Schools should be free of weapons and every child and every teacher should be able enjoy school without fear or violence.

No one can forget the horror of hearing about Anne Maguire who was stabbed to death in 2014 by a 15 year old pupil at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds. Then in 2015 another teacher, Vincent Uzomah, was stabbed and seriously injured at Dixons Kings Academy in Bradford. There are sadly many other high profile incidents involving teaching colleagues and pupils where things have gone terribly wrong.

These despicable crimes are vile and shocking and remind us all that we need to be vigilant and never complacent in the work we do. Carrying weapons is sadly the norm for some children and it is almost impossible to conceive that they are part and parcel of their lifestyles to such an extent that they are willing to use them on fellow human beings with intent to harm and kill.

I am fortunate. I have only had to deal with one knife related incident in my career and fortunately no one was involved. I found a 7 inch knife in the playground. No one knew how it got there and it was never established who it belonged to. The fact that it was even on school premises was enough to make me feel sick. Who was it intended for? School suddenly felt unsafe.

Out Of Control

Figures from 32 police forces in England and Wales reveal air guns, axes and samurai swords have been taken to class and at least 47 children found with weapons were below 10 years old including one 5 year old who was caught with a knife.

A Freedom Of Information request, which was submitted to police forces across Wales and England by the Press Association, and an analysis of data from 32 police forces that gave figures showed there were 2,579 weapons found from the 2015/16 financial year to this year. The statistics showed that at least one in five incidents involved knives.

In the same week, broadcaster Ben Fogle announced that he allows his children to play with knives. Bear Grylls has also said the same thing in the past. Well, sorry Ben and sorry Bear, but children and knives do not mix in the real-world.

The numbers of weapons seized is likely to be a conservative figure because a chunk of police forces didn’t provide any information and some of those that did only gave partial figures.

Knife Crime

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Knife Crime, Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock, says

“We have recently seen an increase in young people carrying knives and this is worrying. We are responding to this trend by targeting those who carry them illegally and working with retailers to reduce the sale of knives to underage people through nationally coordinated operations.”

“Police involvement in schools, whether it be officers delivering talks and interactive sessions or based in schools themselves as part of the Safer Schools Partnership, helps us to educate young people and explain why carrying a weapon illegally is never acceptable.”

Staying Safe

All schools should sign up to a Safer School Partnership (SSPs) to support children and young people because they are a very positive way for a school to demonstrate its commitment to promoting a safe climate of learning and to prevent crime. It also promotes shared values and improves relations generally within the school and the wider community.

All SSPs aim to ensure:

  • Safety of pupils, staff and the school site and surrounding area/community.
  • Help for young people to deal with situations that may put them at risk of becoming victims of crime, bullying or intimidation, and to provide support to those who do.
  • Focused enforcement to demonstrate that those that do offend cannot do so without facing consequences.
  • Early identification, support and where necessary challenge of pupils involved in or at risk of offending.
  • Improved standards of pupil behaviour and attendance, and less need for exclusions.
  • Effective approaches to issues beyond the school site that negatively impact on pupil safety and behaviour.

SSPs not only help keep pupils safe they can also decrease the risk of young people getting drawn into crime, gang culture, antisocial or extremist behaviour. SSPs can also improve the safety of a school site and the surrounding area and build positive relationships between pupils and police.

Save A Life

Speaking last year, Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock also said,

“There is no easy solution to the scourge of knife crime, which impacts our communities and their feelings of safety. Tackling violence involving knives remains a key priority for the police service and we intend to keep up the momentum.”

While there is no one solution to knife crimes but the the anti-knife crime campaign ‘Save a Life, Surrender Your Knife’ has a very important role to play as it aims to raise awareness of knife crimes and encourages the surrender of dangerous weapons.

Schools do work closely with the police to protect and educate children and in some cases metal scanners are used and searches conducted. The Metropolitan Police have urged more schools in London to get metal arches in place as stabbings continue to rise.

Perhaps now is the time to stop debating the use of bodycams and whether CCTV throughout a school is a good idea or not – safeguarding lives isn’t really up for long discussions, its a priority.

Some schools are worried about fidget spinners  but other schools have bigger things to consider and we perhaps need to remind ourselves of that reality. Some children are now using makeshift flame throwers.

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project manager, writer and editor. I am the teacher without a tongue. www.johndabell.com

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