Knife crime has a huge impact on children and the communities in which they live. It is a societal problem and it cannot be tackled by schools or single agencies alone.
Schools may be able to identify, support, help and protect children on the school site. They can teach children/young people about the dangers of knives and related dangers.
Knife crime is a term used commonly in the media to refer, primarily, to street based knife assaults and knife-carrying. However, there are many different criminal offences relating to knives. For example:
- it is an offence to threaten or cause harm to a person with a bladed weapon.
- some bladed weapons are prohibited from being sold or purchased, including to anyone under the age of 18.
- offences such as robbery or assault can be aggravated if a knife is involved.
- it is also an offence to carry a knife in a public place without good reason.
In the 12 months to September 2018, knife crime had increased by 68.4% across England and Wales (excluding the Greater Manchester Police area) compared with 12 months up to September 2014 and by 55.5% across the Metropolitan Police Service area of London over the same period.
Public perception of knife crime being a problem has increased.
The number of sharp instruments found on school property has increased. Data from 21 police forces in England and Wales obtained through a freedom of information request showed that 363 sharp instruments were found on school property in 2017–18.
This is a rise from 269 in 2013–14.6 Research also shows that pupils who self-report as being a victim of knife crime are twice as likely to carry a knife themselves compared with non-victims. Therefore, as we see an increase in victims or those with a fear of knife crime, we can expect to see an increase in perpetrators of knife-carrying and knife crime among both adults and children.
Knife crime is an increasing safeguarding risk to children, both at school and in their local communities.
The highest level of risk is for those children who have been groomed into gangs, for the purposes of criminal exploitation.
Underneath this lies a group of children who have witnessed other children carrying knives, have been the victim of knife crime or know someone who has carried a knife for protection or status-acquisition or who are encouraged to believe knife-carrying is normal through the glamorisation of gangs and knives on social media.
Then there are children who carry knives to school as an isolated incident. For example, they may carry a penknife that a grandparent has gifted them.
It is important to remember that knife crime does not exist in a vacuum and children who are victims or perpetrators may also be experiencing multiple vulnerabilities.
The common denominator of pupils who are found carrying bladed objects into school is their vulnerability. Almost invariably, these children have experienced poverty, abuse or neglect or are living within troubled families. They may also experience social exclusion due to factors such as their race or socio-economic background.
Staff and school leaders are generally confident that children are safe from knife crime at school and say that they keep pupils safe on the premises through policies and practice, their zero-tolerance approach to bladed objects, their clear expectations of pupils’ behaviour, good levels of supervision at the start and end of the school day, including on the school gate and at the bus stops, and the visibility, if possible, of a police officer at the school.
The most dangerous time for children is shortly after school, between 4pm and 6pm. So, while children might be safe on site, their safety after school is a concern for children, their parents and their teachers.
It is clear that children need help and support to prevent them becoming either victims or perpetrators of knife crime.