What are the next steps in tackling youth violence?
In this, my sixth and final blog of the ‘Beyond The Gate‘, series I reflect on my work to date. I suggest two key areas for policymakers to consider if schools are to contribute to tackling the current escalation of youth violence.
Time To Get Heads Out Of The Sand
Through the development of our ‘Beyond the Gate’ approach, it has become apparent that there is a fundamental lack of understanding of these issues within many schools. There is also a reluctance for leaders to strategically develop a whole school response. This is particularly so from schools outside major urban areas and this issue can no longer be buried by school leaders.
In an early, unpublished blog I wrote in September I began:
“County lines along with increased incidents of youth violence and knife crime have meant the blurring of lines of responsibility for many schools. These issues stem from within or even beyond the communities which schools serve.”
The significant development of our response since this early blog, and the subsequent evolution of “Beyond The Gate”, has only strengthened my assertion that for many schools the lines remain blurred.
Developing ‘Beyond The Gate’
I have encountered lots of Heads who recognise the important role that schools can play in early identification and intervention. There is also still a significant number who remain oblivious to the threats and challenges facing youth people today by the issues of County Lines and youth violence. They do not recognise the threats to their community or are simply unwilling to accept these as their responsibility. In an earlier post I highlighted:
“Over the summer, the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, advocated that pupils should receive lessons as part of the national curriculum on how to avoid being targeted by gangs and older criminals, whilst the latest DFE statutory safeguarding guidance – Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) – references, for the first time that schools should be taking to identify potential “county lines” exploitation”
I can but hope that this, alongside future legislation and frameworks, drives this issue on to every school agenda. A whole school strategic response from school leaders is essential. I am advocating that policymakers consider two further areas for development as part of a public health approach.
1. Statutory Safeguarding & ACE Training
Embedding for all those working in education a basic understanding of the risk factors and underlying Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE factors) that heighten the risk of engagement in youth violence. These include the impacts of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional), exposure to domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, the loss of a parent (through separation, divorce, incarceration or death), neglect or living with someone with mental health.
2. Clear Information Sharing Protocols
We urgently need to develop processes to support information sharing between schools, agencies and the police. For those schools who hide behind GDPR as a reason not to engage then remember the GDPR and Data Protection Act (2018) do not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. The Data Protection Act (2018) introduces safeguarding as a reason to be able to process sensitive, personal information.
There are of course wider much discussions over other issues such as funding and statutory guidance. However, for those of us in schools we must consider ourselves on the front line. We need to be proactive in dealing with the ‘here and now’. We need to ensure that we do everything we can to keep our students safe.