Beyond The Gate: Addressing Gang Violence

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Steve Warner

Steve is a deputy headteacher in a large secondary school in Luton. His areas of responsibility include culture and capital and daily operations. He is passionate about ensuring every student accesses a fully inclusive education that allows them to achieve both their academic and personal...
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Are your teachers informed about youth violence and gang culture?

Gang activity is increasingly spreading from urban to suburban and rural areas, and youth violence is on the increase. In a recent post I discussed the importance of raising awareness and building resilience against the negative influences of gang life in our schools. But what else can we do to help resolve the “gang crisis”?

Educating teachers on gang culture

I have worked with a number of schools, safeguarding leaders and governors throughout the Summer Term to share our understanding and response on youth violence and gang culture. What is very apparent is the lack of knowledge and understanding about the issues that draw young people towards violence and gang involvement. Any strategic whole school responses seem to be very thin on the ground.

There are many social, economic and familial factors contributing to youth violence that can be overlooked such as father deficit and social marginalisation.

Staff also misunderstand cultural deviance, poor attendance, stress, anxiety, behavioural changes and sexualised behaviours. Furthermore County Lines are regularly met with surprise and shock.

We have a knowledge and understanding vacuum. So how can students be adequately educated and the counter narrative delivered with any credence? Those charged with doing this are in the dark themselves.

Instead, it is left to a small number of specialist agencies such as The St Giles Trust or individuals like Alison Cope.

The potential influence that parents, family members and other adults can have in pushing a young person toward violence is important. Similarly, the influence of schools is also hugely significant in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of students toward violence.

Beyond the gate

So ‘Beyond the gate’ evolved. This is our school based model to tackle the societal problems of knife crime, youth violence and gang culture emanating from the communities that we and other local schools serve.

This is based on a public health approach because it focuses on the causes rather than dealing with the consequences. Importantly, it recognises that no single school, agency, service or organisation can tackle this in isolation.

Our model focuses on 4 stages:

  1. Awareness
  2. Identification
  3. Implementation
  4. Development

Beyond The Gate - SMHS Model

A further explanation of this model will be given in future blogs but underlying our approach are the principles that:

  • No school can operate in isolation – we need a multi-agency approach.
  • Early identification of ‘at risk’ students and early implementation of intervention programmes is vital.
  • All those working in schools need to develop their knowledge and training around these issues as part of statutory safeguarding.
  • Supportive and trusting relationships and interactions between students, schools, community and the Police are key to success.

There are encouraging signs. Many schools across Hertfordshire are starting to raise awareness among their staff and are beginning to implement the “Beyond the gate” approach. As one school commented in response to some awareness training: “Youth violence and gang culture is not a topic we have spent much time considering… it is not something we should shy away from; it is real and it is already happening.”

In future blogs I will be sharing further details of our school-based approach as part of our #beyondthegate response, including the toolkit we have developed to identify our most at risk students.

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