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Crime Prevention: Schools

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps the Government plans to take to tackle criminal activities at or near school entrances in Coventry. (180718)

The Government are committed to improving the life chances of children and young people, by having fewer young people affected by crime and reduce youth victimisation.

There is already a great deal of work going on across Government to tackle offenders and help vulnerable young people achieve the Every Child Matters outcome to ‘Stay Safe’. Initiatives include Safer School Partnerships, Youth Inclusion Support Panels and the Youth Inclusion Programme and since 2004, we have invested over £45 million in youth offending teams which have pioneered antisocial behaviour prevention activities for young people at most risk.

Safer Schools Partnerships (SSPs) were launched in 2002 in England and Wales and they help tackle criminal activity at or near school entrances. SSPs are a successful mechanism for ensuring joint working between schools and police, to identify and support children and young people regarded as being at high risk of victimisation, offending and social exclusion. There are now about 500 SSPs of one form or another. Evaluations have shown that they are proving effective in improving behaviour and attendance, developing strong and positive relationships between the police and young people, and to help young people develop a sense of being part of the local community.

Reports from front-line staff suggest that the introduction of school-based officers under SSP have gone some way to improve the overall safety of the schools in Coventry and the wider community. One school has suggested that crime fell between 70-80 per cent. since the introduction of these measures.

There is also a local scheme (Operation Rhyme) encouraging schools to stagger the end of school days in an effort to minimise potential problems between pupils. The school entrances are patrolled by uniformed police officers with the assistance of police community support officers.

The use of metal search archways and the use of a police dog have also been used as a deterrent in some Coventry schools. This has been at the consent of the schools involved as well as the pupils and parents. Local police officers involved in the scheme say it has lead to a greater well-being and safer school environment.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps her Department has taken to work with schools to reduce crime on school premises since 1997. (180719)

The main initiative to tackle crime on school premises in the last 10 years has been the Safer School Partnerships (SSPs).

SSPs are a successful mechanism for ensuring structured joint working between schools and police. Evaluations have shown they are proving effective in improving behaviour and attendance, with truancy falling significantly and pupils and staff feeling much safer. Originally launched in areas targeted by the Street Crime Initiative in 2002, there are now over 500 SSPs in one form or another across the country.

Because of the proven success of SSPs, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has been working closely with the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB) to encourage more schools and police to engage in this type of early intervention and preventative work which is so vital to achieving the outcomes we are all committed to.

DCSF also announced, in October 2006, that schools had a power randomly to screen pupils using metal detectors in arches or hand-held wands. The use of screening arches in schools and other places was introduced in May 2007 by the Government and brought in force a new power for schools to search without consent, pupils suspected of carrying a weapon.

The great majority of schools don’t have a problem with knife crime. Nevertheless, in a very small number of schools it may be necessary, at the discretion of the school and working with the police, to search pupils. The Government introduced in May last year new measures to enable the searching of weapons by teaching staff to ensure schools continue to be safe and secure places to learn. The use of search arches—in schools and other places—is currently being considered by the Government as part of a range of measures to tackle knife crime, which will be featured in the Violent Crime Action Plan to be published in February.

The Government have also launched various wider initiatives which contribute to reducing crime in schools.

Since 2004, it has invested over £45 million in youth crime prevention funding to youth offending teams which have pioneered crime prevention activities for young people at most risk. Their work includes:

Youth Inclusion Support Panels; and

Youth Inclusion Programmes.

The Home Office has invested in other prevention programmes such as Positive Futures. Around 22,000 young people are currently involved in Positive Futures projects nationwide.