Schools are generally safe places. To help head teachers keep them safe, we gave schools in May 2007 a new power to search, without consent, any pupil whom they suspect, after random screening or otherwise, to be carrying a weapon. When issuing guidance on this new power, my Department also brought to schools’ attention their existing power to screen pupils at random for weapons using screening wands or arches. The guidance set out not only the benefits but also the acknowledged risks of using either power.
It is for head teachers to determine if and when they use these powers, based on their knowledge of their own school. The Department does not collect data on the use of these powers, nor are schools obliged to tell us when they conduct searches or if they find weapons. When a pupil is suspected of carrying a weapon, some schools may rely on the direct and immediate intervention of the local police, and we would not wish to discourage them from taking that approach.