Conservative MP Robert Halfon’s suggestion that stop and search procedures are used in schools raises questions not only about the statutory responsibilities of schools and colleges (and their limits) but also about the role of education in a much broader context. The chair of the education select committee’s remarks follows hot on the heels of a recent Ofsted report researching knife crime in education. The Guardian reports.
It has been widely acknowledged that the roots of youth violence are complex and varied, and the solutions must be equally far-reaching and multilayered. Education does have a role to play in addressing some causal factors that lead young people into harmful behaviours and in preventing those already at risk from further harm, either to themselves or others. One element of this is, indeed, to build relationships with the police and to work collaboratively to ensure that when stop and search procedures are necessary in public spaces, they are conducted in ways that are safe and non-confrontational.
This, however, is a far cry from stop and search becoming an accepted and expected part of the educational experience of teenagers. What a terrible indictment of our society that we can only safeguard the children in our care if police officers routinely carry out searches in schools and colleges that could result in criminal conviction.
Halfon’s proposal to have special constables trained to work specifically with young people, and very much be part of the school community, is the ideal that the current safer schools officers struggle to achieve because they are often stretched across a number of schools with little capacity to build relationships in any of them. We don’t need a completely new initiative, we need the current policy to work more effectively. This will require a higher level of resourcing, and much more direct input from school and college leaders, and, more importantly, their students.
At Leyton sixth form college we do some important work with Waltham Forest Citizens, part of the charity Citizens UK, and use community organising and leadership training to give young people the power to find solutions, but ringfenced funding would allow us to go further. We could employ dedicated youth workers to provide intensive support to our most vulnerable students, and extend our emergency first aid and urban awareness provision. We could also develop creative projects with the police to allow officers and young people to work together towards a shared goal, to sustain our Theatre in Education programme, which deals specifically with issues related to youth crime, and to build our peer-mentoring capacity. None of these vital interventions can happen without investment.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter .. Tamsin
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