Have your say: Knife Crime

5 approaches that help schools tackle knife crime

Knife CrimeIn London, knife crime and youth violence have become depressingly regular features of the news. Week on week we hear about another young life taken, a family heartbroken and a community shattered. But it’s not just London that is being affected. All over the country, young people are under threat because of the carrying of knives. There has been a sharp rise in West Midlands, which includes Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and Walsall. The region has already recorded the highest number of youth knife deaths in 40 years, with six young people aged between eight to 19 dying from knife attacks within that police jurisdiction this year.

Ofsted have carried out research into how London schools are dealing with knife crime, looking at how schools are protecting pupils from the threat of knives while they are in school, and how they are educating pupils about the dangers of carrying a weapon outside of school. Many schools have been tackling this head on for a long time, yet it is now clear that all schools, no matter their location or context, have to develop approaches that safeguard children from this threat. This has to be based on the recognition that anyone can be the victim of knife crime because many young people are carrying knives. So here are five approaches that schools are using to help address knife crime.

1. Participate in the local area plan to tackle knife crime
Each area has developed a knife crime strategy and we should find out what it is and participate fully in it. We should be proactive. Schools need to take a full and active role in local area plans, understand what is available to them. Many people think knife crime is a policing issue. However, Scotland had great success from making it a public health issue. Schools there would bring in people from all walks of life to talk with young people about knives. This was part of a co-ordinated strategic plan which led to a massive reduction in young knife crime in places such as Glasgow. The years of austerity have affected our ability to tackle knife crime. Youth workers, mentors, youth clubs, community police officers have been proven to help reduce knife crime, yet many of these services have been eradicated. But we can’t allow that to be the end of the story. Schools need to identify and engage with any of these remaining services as part of their approach. If there is a lack of service, challenge the local authority for more! In London, the Mayor’s office has dedicated £250,000 to fund community projects to engage with young people and reduce the carrying of knives. This is in addition to the £1.2 million Young Londoner Fund. The Mayor of Manchester is bringing in similar schemes.

2. Engage with young people in meaningful dialogue
When you look at the stories of knife incidents, you’ll see that one group is often missing from the picture: professionals are not part of this story. Young people often don’t tell us about their experiences and fears. Sadly, many young people don’t tell school staff because they don’t think we can help. In London and Scotland, young people have said that they want to be engaged with by people from their communities who they know and trust, and who have experienced some of the same issues and challenges around knife crime. So where, when and how can professionals intervene in young people’s lives in a way that would reduce the threat of knife crime? Well we need to start by asking young people about their experiences, who they would speak to, what schools can do and listen to them. Scotland’s excellent support materials for schools and youth settings, ‘Noknives,betterlives’ states that we should be involving young people as equal partners which for school staff means observing, not judging, engaging in dialogue and bringing in other people that are not teachers. We need to use this to form an approach in our schools and provide chance for reflection so that we can positively influence attitudes, choices and behaviour. The focus should be on supporting young people to understand who they are, the decisions they make and the factors which influence them.

3. Use the available support resources
Many parts of the country have produced excellent resources for schools to help tackle knife crime. Scotland has been recognised for its success in reducing knife related deaths. These resources are now being used around England. ‘Noknives,betterlives’, ‘Benkinsellatrust’, ‘Londonknifcrimeapproach’ are just some of the free resources available. They include comprehensive lesson plans to promote dialogue, reflection, decision-making. There is also material available to introduce this at primary school too. The resources go much further than assembly ideas. They provide in depth activities to engage young people in dialogue, self-reflection, decision making. They can be integrated into the curriculum and are much more than one off lessons. Furthermore, there are resources for teachers, young people, youth justice workers and parents. So, have you seen them? Have you used them or considered where they can be incorporated into your curriculum?

4. Engage with parents
How do parents feel about knife crime? They are surely thinking about it. In terms of what they can do, they can often feel powerless. The resources mentioned provides help for parents to educate their children. Schools need to educate parents on what is available and what they can use. We also need to give parents the chance to group together, in communities, on their streets, so that adults can look out for children. Isolation is the great threat to parents playing their role in tackling this head on. As schools, we can be a centre point in the community to get parents together, to share the information and resources available and to ensure we are all talking to each other about our children. We need to remember that most schools are very safe places, but the knife tragedies are happening out on the street. Parents, alongside the police and other observant citizens have key roles to play but may need the help of schools to know what is available to support them.

5. Engage with high risk pupils
We know that some groups of young people are more vulnerable to engaging in and becoming victims of knife crime. Pupils who live in areas with known gang activity, those who have been excluded from school, those that get drawn into criminal exploitation as a consequence of being targeted and groomed. While schools need an approach that engages with all children, we need to be identifying potentially high-risk pupils and offer them access to mentors, youth workers and other proven interventions. We need to work with the police, health and social services sharing information to keep our pupils safe. In London, the police will let schools know which of their pupils is on their radar for knife related incidents. A recent YouGov poll found that 72% of parents believed that excluded pupils were more at risk of being involved in knife crime and serious youth violence. Yet currently, 1 in 3 local authorities have nowhere for excluded pupils to go. Couple this with the debate about many schools and academies excluding pupils too easily for not conforming to school rules and it is hard not to be concerned. We need to consider what will happen to young people that are at risk of exclusion and find every possible way of keeping them in school with us. Yes, that will be challenging, but the alternative might be much more serious and ruin their lives. We owe it to young people to do everything we can to ensure they aren’t cast off without any hope or support. They need to see that we will try to help them and that we won’t discard them.

Below are some links to websites offering further support and advice:

Have your say

Have you had experience of knife crime in your school? What is your school doing to tackle the issue? What positive outcomes have you seen from talking to pupils about knife crime? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions using the comments section below.

Written by Michael Hawkins on February 14, 2019 11:22

Ofsted Annual Report

Highlights from the 2017/18 report relating to Safeguarding

InspectionOn Tuesday (4th December), Amanda Spielman, Ofsted's Chief Inspector, launched their annual report.

Some of the headline findings highlighted by Ms Spielman included:

  • 95% of early years providers are at least good
  • as are 86% of schools
  • and 76% of general FE colleges
  • and 82% of children’s homes
  • and, the number of local authorities judged good or outstanding for children’s social care continues to rise
  • While the report praises the progress that has been made, it also acknowledges that there is still much work to do, and four key themes were identified:

  • the first is the crucial importance of getting the basics of education and care right
  • the second is our concerns about the impact of lack of capacity in certain areas and its effect on standards and rates of improvement
  • the third is the danger of expecting schools to become a panacea for all of society’s ills
  • and the last is the importance of focusing on the substance of education and care
  • Of course, all areas of education were discussed in the report, however, we will today pinpoint just a couple of the areas specifically relating to safeguarding.

    Knife Crime and Gangs
    Two of the more worrying areas of safeguarding now dominating concerns (and indeed the media), are knife crime and the criminal exploitation of children.

    The report identifies that both these areas are on the rise, but that schools are teaching children how to stay safe. It recognises that these issues cannot be tackled by schools alone and must be supported by external agencies such as the police, health services and LAs etc.

    Schools at risk of poor quality safeguarding
    The report identified a number of settings where safeguarding arrangements were potentially at risk. These included unregistered schools as they "can evade scrutiny of safeguarding practices". Where unregistered schools had been inspected, 35% were identified as having safeguarding or health and safety issues.

    Other groups of schools identified were independent schools (with 10% having ineffective safeguarding arrangements) and secure training units.

    Also, and somewhat surprisingly, schools who are currently graded as outstanding are on the 'at risk' list. Due to the exemption from inspection, some of these schools have not been inspected for over 10 years, leaving Ofsted with a lack of clarity on the quality of continuing safeguarding practices in these schools. While poor performance data will trigger an inspection, there is no such trigger for safeguarding. And in schools which fell from outstanding to inadequate, safeguarding is typically not effective.

    You can read the speech delivered by Amanda Spielman here or the full annual report here, and you can let us know your thoughts on the report using the comments section below.

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on December 06, 2018 14:59

    Mobile Phones – 29% say no to ban

    Our current survey has revealed that 71% of respondents so far believe that students should be banned from having mobile phones in school

    YouTube PhoneHowever, there was a significant difference between the opinions of teaching staff compared to those in the senior leadership team. Only 68% percent of teaching staff agreed that phones should be banned, but this jumped to 82% among the senior leadership team.

    One teacher who believed phones should not be banned commented “phones and other devices will be bigger and more prevalent than we can possibly imagine in young people's adult lives, so it's vital we teach responsible use rather than hiding the sweetie jar then wondering why they get sick when they sneak into it!”, while a school leader argued that “We have found this [a complete ban] to be very successful, we have never allowed phones in school and although we are aware some have them if we see them out they are confiscated and the students know that, so we hardly ever have to use that sanction. It also gives our students some hours within the day where they can walk away from electronic devices, they don't have to pander to the constant need to check social media and hopefully this is a little contribution to their mental health and well-being”.

    Where opinion wasn’t divided was between primary schools and secondary schools, with an average of 78% agreeing with a ban. One primary school who currently require phones to be handed in / locked away during school hours added that “Parents are banned from using phones inside the building as well as staff. Teachers use in a designated area". In contrast, a secondary school who do not currently ban students from having phones suggested that “Phones are used where IT rooms are scarce".

    Despite the large majority of respondents agreeing with a ban, 18% of respondents reported that their school does not currently do so, and of these schools, only 14% had plans to change the mobile phone policy.

    Our survey is still live and we would welcome your input. Click here to complete the short questionnaire

    In a recent speech to the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Anne Longfield (England’s Children’s Commissioner) said that “schools should have a consistent approach to the use of mobile phones”, adding "I would like there to be a commitment that there is consistency across schools in that it isn't relying on the will of the school or the interests of the school".

    With this, and the mounting pressure on schools to ban mobile phones in order to help support a range of safeguarding issues (including bullying, mental well-being, grooming and so on), it would seem that at some point, the UK may well follow France in imposing a total ban. But will this solve the associated issues or simply create different ones?

    Take part on our mobile phone survey - all responses are anonymous. Click here to complete the short questionnaire Full results will be published later in the year.

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on November 29, 2018 11:48

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