The latest BBC Panorama programme aired on 9th September 2019 and featured ‘Knives in the Classroom’. The programme was presented by Chanell Wallace whose brother was stabbed to death when she was 11.
The programme highlighted some horrific statistics, perhaps the most worrying of which was that 17,000 children between the ages of 10 and 15 have carried a knife in the last year.
Panorama canvassed the views of the Teachers’ Union, the NASUWT which has 300,000 members. Of those that responded over half said knives had been found on children in their schools in the last year. 48% said that knife crime was having a damaging effect on educational performance and 65% believed that knife crime was damaging the mental health of pupils.
The Panorama programme concentrated on Leyton Sixth Form College in East London which regularly carries out searches on children and has 6 to 8 security officers on duty at any one time during the school day. Just under half of all colleges and schools in London are using knife wands to search pupils and the Mayor of London has stipulated that he wants to roll this out. Of the Teachers’ Union representatives that responded to the Panorama programme, 43% said that security had been stepped up at their school or college in the last 12 months.
As part of any Ofsted inspection, schools and colleges will be asked to produce a Lockdown Policy – at present they do not need to have a Lockdown system in place. However, Ofsted now advocate a dedicated lockdown alarm be in place, distinctive in sound to the fire alarm.
The Nexus Lockdown system has been designed as a simple, rapidly deployable range of call and alert points aimed at alerting staff and pupils to an event requiring lockdown. A Lockdown system may be activated in response to any number of situations including a student or intruder spotted on site with a potential weapon. The aim of any Lockdown procedure is to protect children and staff from harm until police arrive to take control of the situation.
Nexus units are battery powered so no expensive and time-consuming wiring is required. A system can be installed and tested in a matter of hours and will come in at a fraction of the cost of a wired PA system.
Leyton Sixth Form College is spending £200,000 per year on security. Whilst the Government have recently announced extra funding for schools, nothing has been allocated specifically for security. However, according to the programme, the Government is considering new security guidance on school safety and headteachers must look more closely at what procedures they already have in place.
Knives and weapons in schools is not a problem that is going away. In the three years leading up to 2018, it is estimated that 28,000 children in England and Wales have become gang members. Answers to these worrying statistics may come in the form of positive role models and mentors for students, but in the meantime schools must strive to be seen as a safe haven for children and staff. Chanell ended the programme by saying “Knives are changing childhood and changing schools. Today teachers are not only responsible for getting pupils through exams, they have to teach them how to stay safe and away from knives.”