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'Schools not supported enough to deal with knife crime'

SCHOOLS IN London aren’t supported well enough when it comes to dealing with knife crime and need to be included in strong multi-agency partnerships, new research from Ofsted finds.

Today’s (Mar 12) Ofsted report Safeguarding children and young people in education from knife crime – lessons from London found that while schools need to keep children safe, they do not have the ability to counter the complex societal problems behind the rise in knife crime. .

Ofsted’s research is based on survey responses from more than 100 schools, colleges, and pupil referral units (PRUs) in London and looks into how schools protect children from knife violence in school, and how they teach pupils to stay safe outside school. The study also examines how exclusions are being used when children bring knives into school.

Overall, Ofsted’s study shows that it is extremely rare that children are caught up in serious violence on school grounds. However, it is also clear that schools’ valuable role in local partnerships is not being realised, leading to inconsistencies across London in the way schools respond.

Additionally, the report finds that schools have very different ways of dealing with knives and teaching children about the risks of carrying a knife, but they need guidance about what works.

“Some schools shy away from using searches or specific education programmes because they are worried about sending the “wrong message” to parents, despite evidence that these methods can effectively deter children from bringing weapons into school,” the watchdog says.

The report notes that there is inconsistent approaches to police involvement with an overall lack of clarity on when police involvement is necessary. This means that some children are more likely to be criminalised for their actions than others, depending on which school they go to, or even within the same school.

The watchdog adds that as an alternative to exclusion, pupils who carry knives are sometimes moved to other mainstream schools or PRUs. But no single body has a clear picture of the number of children who are moved, where they go, or for what reason. “It is difficult to know what happens to these children, whether they are kept safe or what their educational outcomes are.”

Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s Regional Director for London said: “schools should be fully involved in local knife crime strategies, but too few are brought around the table. Only just over half of the schools surveyed were aware their borough had a knife crime strategy. Schools work effectively to keep their pupils safe, but they can be isolated from each other and other agencies, leading to inconsistencies in the way schools approach this issue.

“It is clear that there is an overwhelming desire from different agencies to reduce the prevalence of knife crime. I hope that this insight into the issue through the eyes of school leaders will create momentum across London for a more coordinated approach to protecting vulnerable children from the dangers of knife violence.”

The report recommends that the Department for Education collect data on managed moves in the same way it collects information on exclusions. This data will help Ofsted and others to determine how effective managed moves are for children.

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