KNIFE CRIME: Are body scanners needed in our schools?

Pictured above from top left, Dr Mary Bousted; Patrick Green and bottom left, Sadiq Khan and Andy Mellor.
Pictured above from top left, Dr Mary Bousted; Patrick Green and bottom left, Sadiq Khan and Andy Mellor.

One in 10 children have told their parents they have seen another pupil carrying a knife in school, a frightening statistic has revealed.

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Knife crime survey results

Knife crime survey results

And almost 70 per cent of parents surveyed would welcome body scanners being introduced at schools in their area to detect concealed weapons.

The new research has emerged in the results of a survey carried out by Google on behalf of Johnston Press which also showed an overwhelming 81.5 per cent of people thought it was right that schools should search pupils without consent if they suspect them of carrying prohibited items such as knives.

In addition, more than 60 per cent of respondents felt the Government was not doing enough to combat knife crime among young people.

The survey questioned more than 1,000 adults between the ages of 25 to 64 and was commissioned by the Johnston Press Investigations Unit and carried out by Google.

Respondents were asked six questions covering linked issues such as school security, their own concerns about knife crime among young people in their own community and the Government’s response to the problem.

In reply to whether they would support the introduction of mandatory body scanners in schools, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) agreed with only one third (33 per cent) disagreeing.

Fifty per cent said their children had never seen a student carry such a weapon at school while 40 per cent said they either didn’t have children of school age or were childless.Only six per

cent felt the Government was doing enough to combat knife crime among young people with 61 per cent insisting more could be done and the remaining third unsure.

Seventy per cent also stated it was too easy for young people to access knives with six per cent disagreeing and 24 per cent unsure.

The sixth question in our Google survey asked respondents how concerned they were about knife crime among young people in their local community.

Thirty-six per cent, the largest percentage out of four options, said they were quite concerned with 28 per cent insisting they were very concerned, 19 per cent feeling neither concerned or unconcerned and 17 per cent maintaining they were unconcerned.

SCHOOLS SHOULD NOT BECOME PRISONS

Schools should not become “prisons” or “Fort Knox” style security zones with pupil searches as standard education chiefs have urged.

Andy Mellor, headteacher at St Nicholas CE Primary School in Marton, Blackpool, and vice-president of the National Association of Headteachers, pictured below, agrees does not feel knife detectors and body scanners are the answer to tackling knife crime.

He also fears these could take away the “safe haven” perception that some pupils hold of their school and says that thankfully incidents such as the fatal stabbing of teacher Ann Maguire at a school in Leeds are rare.

He said: “I do not think that any technology is fool-proof.

“Losing Ann Maguire was one teacher lost too many. But however tragic that situation with Ann Maguire was, fatal assaults on staff are thankfully very rare.

“That particular issue with the young man responsible was more to do with his mental health than any issue with knife crime.“For some children, school is often the safest place and it is

like a refuge and somewhere that gives them consistency.

“If you then change that safe place into a Fort Knox airport security zone, then you are actually saying it is not a safe place any more.

“That means that for these children, their one safe haven has been taken away from them.”

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) and the the former head of Lancashire’s Edge Hill College, believes the focus needs to be on tackling the root causes of knife possession.

She says: “We do not want to turn our schools into prisons with knife scanners and pupil searches.

“Schools want to be part of solving the problem of knife crime but, to do so, they need the resources and time in the curriculum and support from other agencies to be able to pick up issues and educate young people about the dangers of carrying knives.”

BODY SCANNERS - ARGUMENTS FOR INTRODUCING THEM IN SCHOOLS

Knife detectors and body scanners act as a reassurance to pupils that they are entering a place of safety as well as being a deterrent to potential offenders, a campaign group argues.

Patrick Green, trust manager for The Ben Kinsella Trust which campaigns against knife crime and educates young people about the dangers of carrying a knife, says: “Body scanners and knife wands give a very strong message to young people.“A lot of schools that do have them in place do not have a knife problem.

“Pupils know they are going into a safe environment when there is a scanner and it is also a deterrent as those who may have been thinking of carrying a knife will realise they are likely to be caught and the ramifications will be huge.“It is down to individual schools to decide whether to have scanners or not but we see them as a positive tool for schools to give messages of reassurance and prevention.”

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan offered all state-funded secondary schools in London knife wands if they want them.

However, only around 18 per cent of schools that received letters offering the metal-detecting wands have taken the offer up.

The knife wands cost £66.72 each and are part of the mayor’s knife crime strategy.There were four fatal stabbings in the city in just 24 hours over New Year and Mr Khan says schools have an important part to play in fighting knife crime.

Sadiq Khan says knife crime has become a national problem that is devastating communities.

He says: “As Johnston Press Investigations has highlighted, one of the most concerning aspects of this depressing trend is the increase in the number of young children found carrying lethal weapons.

“Too many young people think carrying a knife will make them safer or give them respect. But the opposite is true.”