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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
Should police be sent into schools?
Police officers are to be allocated to schools in England with truancy and discipline problems, as part of an effort to crack down on youth crime.
The aim is to have up to 100 officers in schools in London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool by the start of the autumn term.
Once there they will help deal with truancy, and conduct "sweeps" of local shopping centres, as well as offer advice and support on bullying and behaviour.
The move is part of the government's determination to crack down on youth crime and will cost £10m.
Will a permanent police presence in schools help to resolve problems with truancy and youth crime? Tell us what you think.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Police in schools would rouse little other than annoyance. Students would not appreciate a uniformed police officer patrolling a school as it would make us feel threatened, like we had done something wrong.
The best thing would be to get police to make regular visits to schools to get to know the students, without encroaching on their freedom.
By definition, truants don't go to school. The police would be better used patrolling the shopping malls and car parks, amusement centres, and licensed pubs/clubs.
I am in secondary school. In the middle of last year, the school decided to station cops (police) on campus. The results were actually quite good. There were almost no fights, and fewer people cut class. It works having police on campus!
What's the point? If teachers were trained correctly to control a class and enforce a suitable level of discipline there would be no need for this at all.
The police should be out patrolling and ready to respond to street crime as it occurs.
Barry P, England
I think police should not be sent to school for policing. Rather it should be duty of parents to shoulder their responsibility in a more appropriate manner. Police in school will only be creating fear in the mind of young children during there formative years. I have found during teaching tenure that any disorder children can be made gentle through love and proper guidance. Always standing with cane doesn't help all the time.
The only time the police are really needed school is either give talks on careers in the Police Force or to arrest unruly students who assault our teachers. If they must make their presence felt let it be through rounding up the truants.
The impact is likely to be greater on the police than on the pupils - and the coppers are bent enough already.
After the Massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, two police officers were assigned to my high school. They did not get in your way, but I did feel that they sent a message. Their presence showed that inhumane behaviour would not be tolerated at my school
Not until they are armed with more than CS Spray and side-handled batons!!!
Morgan Pugh, UK
A chronic shortage of police in the UK - so what does Tony do rather than recruit more police for our streets?
He gets even more police off our streets by sending them into school playgrounds! Perhaps Tony's theft from parents legitimate child benefit should just about cover this expensive gimmick?
As a parent of a persistent truanter I find the situation with my daughter totally worrying. I would take her to the school gates and see her walk into school, then hours later the school would inform me that my daughter had absconded - often through a hole in the fence at the back of the school.
I wonder what the government is trying to say? Is it their policy on youth crime that is failing, or their teacher training facilities? As a school pupil, I know that no matter how intelligent a teacher may be, they must need to know how to teach. If the government is failing in either area, then it should not mix the two, but sort both out individually. Keep the bobbies on the beat as they are sorely needed to limit youth crime there and train the teachers to deal with situations which could arise.
R Sobrany, UK
I am happy for you to target schools which are in trouble, but what about targeting school that are in areas of deprivation in Solihull working alongside Education Welfare Officers in dealing with reducing crime and truancy. There are problems with disaffection, drugs, street crime and anti-social behaviour. Police would be welcomed in schools and on the streets around the schools, but a slap on the wrist will not teach some children a lesson, some parents would welcome the initiative of the Police to get involved and to give their children a very short, sharp lesson.
Shame on those cynics who do not support this initiative! The scheme has already been piloted in Oxfordshire, with very positive results both in terms of better discipline and reduced truancy in the schools, and lower crime in the surrounding areas. In the schools where this has been piloted, everyone, including pupils, teachers, parents and the police themselves have been supportive. According to this very web-site "Official figures showed that 40% of street crime, 25% of burglaries, 20% of criminal damage and a third of car thefts were carried out by 10 to 16-year-olds at times when they should be in school". It would appear that there are many contributors to this forum who place more value on cheap point-scoring than on actually supporting something that has already been proven to reduce youth crime!
S. Keane, UK
Do we not punish children anymore?
What a silly situation!
Yes, in a way it's a good idea but I think the best way of reducing misbehaviour and truanting within schools is to get to the root of the problem first. Ask why? Why don't they want to go to school? Why are they behaving in this way? In my experience badly behaved children in school were usually from problematic homes.
Perhaps now the pupils will stop assaulting or stabbing teachers in inner-city schools. It's time we taught these little barbarians a lesson with the introduction of the real world into school- the police.
It is very unfortunate that the situation has come to this point. However, if sending the police into these schools is the only way of protecting teachers and students who are keen to learn in a safe, respectable environment, then it must be done.
Re comments Mr Miller et.al. - say BOO! to one of today's litle darlings and you will probably end up on a sex offender's register. In a local school - Llantwit Fardre- at least one teacher is/was happy to tell pupils that they are below the age of legal responsibility and could effectively get away with murder. The fundamental human right is to be responsible to others.
Craig Miller, UK
Brilliant Idea, kids need to know that they cannot get away with everything. Powers of the police in schools would mean that persistent offenders will be dealt with straight away. At my old school truants where picked up in shopping centres by patrol cars and taken to the police station. Truants will go to school whether they like it or not, and when they are at school they have someone watching over then.
We should not have reached the situation where a police present is needed in our schools. If teachers and parents were accepting their responsibilities and carrying out their duties in the manner that they should, then we wouldn't be in this situation. As it is, we now have a situation which is getting out of control, without looking as though it will improve in the near future. Suggesting that the police should be left to concentrate on more important matters is ridiculous, what is more important than the safety and well being of our children?
Last week there were suggestions of civilian people covering police jobs - wouldn't this be the ideal sort of thing that Group4 or whoever could do? This means that highly trained police officers could get on with the actual job of catching current criminals not the future ones.
I think once police are in schools they will never leave. We need to punish these kids, and install the right moral in them. When I was a kid I was no angel, but I did not rob, and punching a teacher never crossed my mind. This society is turning sick.
Good idea! It will build a good surrounding for youngster to concentrate their attention on studying. There will be no more bullying in schools.
Yet another of Tony Blair's quick-fix measures.
Discipline in schools is the responsibility of the teachers. The police should be out on the streets.
What next if this fails, army units based in schools?
Karl, Northants, UK
What are we going to end up with next? Cells in schools to lock disruptive pupils in!
Having a police at school is a Quick Fix cure. I am sure with the rising crime, there are more important things the police force should focus on. The problem with schools is a disease of dysfunctional society. The discipline is not imposed or ignored. Respect for teachers is not instilled, as the children know teacher cannot do a thing to bring them under control.
It would be better if the LEA's backed prosecutions for assaults on teachers by both parents and pupils. They have a duty of care towards their staff and should be seen to be supporting them.
James Akabwai, London UK
As it is, kids have little or no respect for the police, taunting them on the streets with, "You can't touch me!". In a school, when the police will have to exaggerate their 'softly, softly' approach; I can't see how things will be any better.
It would be better to situate the police officers permanently in the community, this way the tearaways would have someone keeping an eye on them all the time not just at school. At least this idea is better than having the nearest policeman 20 minutes away by car!
Good for the police! I'm glad that for once someone is suggesting a scheme to try and tackle the long-term causes of truancy and youth crime (lack of any respect for authority or for the community) rather than looking at short-term gimmicks, such as stopping child support for 'failing' parents.
I agree with Derek Scougall, UK - why not bring in compulsory conscription? They have it in many countries throughout the EU and Europe. Norway, Greece, Croatia etc, all have it and it is about time we did it here in the UK. Discipline should be instilled and if parents, teachers and society can not do it i am sure the army can!
Would it not be a lot cheaper to introduce National Service like Norway and instil some discipline back into these unruly youngsters? If we reap what we sow then God help up when the next generation are here!
Yes, yes, yes! There should be a policeman in every school. It may look pathetic in the beginning but in the long run it should provide the real peace in every parent's mind. I have two daughters and I am constantly worried. I think, if the fragile places like school become more secure and better protected, better our society will be.
Stacey Turner, American in the UK
You wouldn't need police in schools if the do-gooders of this country hadn't forced their idealism on you in the first place. Discipline is the answer, but there is none and why? Because you mustn't smack naughty children, you mustn't have corporal punishment in schools, you must help the unruly ones by giving them free holidays. At what point do those with any sense say we have had enough and revert back to common sense?
When pupils are unruly and disruptive they should be removed from the school and sent to a special public school - like the military schools in the USA. The fees would be paid for by the parents of the little monsters. If a child does not attend school, the parent should have the choice of: 1. pay a fine, 2. 6 months in jail, 3. 30 days in juvenile detention for the pupil, 4. the child placed into care, 5. if the child is a persistent problem then they have to be sent to the special schools - at the parent's expense!
Our school children should learn respect for authority - that is where we should start. The police would have pre-conceived ideas about certain families, whereby one member of that family might just be innocent. Using security contractors, along with better control and better actions taken over truancy, bullying etc. would be far better than to use what few police officers we have now.
Quentin Holt, New Zealand
So how are the police going to deal with the tearaways? They won't be able to hit them with their batons because that'll be child abuse and hundreds of social workers will start prosecuting the police
What a ridiculous situation! We've stripped teachers of all their powers of authority - now have to pay to police the schools. Surely, the first thing we need is to reinstate support for teachers with a power for them to take action against pupils who are unruly or break the law?
If the police are in the schools the only real issues they can tackle is violence, drugs, drinking, smoking and to some extent truancy. Yes they may be able to build stronger police - community relationships, but the reverse may also be true. People don't like having authority shoved in their faces. I can see the need for these police in the most troublesome schools, but if teachers can't grab hold of a child without being accused of assaulting the child, what can the police do?
In response to A J Train (UK)'s message that the police should deal with "more important matters" like drugs, murder and violent crime, he should wake up and realise that young people are getting involved in drugs, murder and violent crime! Many truants are or will be involved with muggings, drugs and possibly murder (i.e. Damilola's alleged murderers) because they are allowed to roam the streets aimlessly all day. Get the kids to stop truanting and perhaps they will begin to (or carry on to) respect society's rules and not commit crime.
A J Train, UK
Good idea! It may help youngsters build a better relationship with authority figures. They may learn to respect their elders and begin to understand that the police are not their enemies but are in fact acting in their long term interests as well as that of the community as a whole.
So this will cost £10m. With 100 officers that's £100,000 per officer. This had better produce one heck of an improvement.
Heather, North West, UK
Placing police in schools is a useless idea for the simple reason that children who repeatedly play truant don't actually go to school. Presumably the police would only have the same powers of punishment as a headmaster, therefore I fail to see what difference this scheme would make. The government should be dealing with the wider social problems that lead to truancy and violent behaviour in schools. By putting forward this proposal, the government is admitting that they have failed this country's schools and that they don't have any sensible or effective solutions to offer. This pathetic pre-local election attempt on behalf of the government is flawed in every way. If I was a truant or unruly child, I would love all this attention.
Gail Meadow, UK
Provided that the police are not dissuaded from exercising their full powers whilst based in schools, this should prove to be a very effective measure. The police will immediately be given some very useful insight into the backgrounds of many of the juvenile criminals they come across, they will be able to evaluate whether or not parents are taking appropriate and decisive actions concerning their children's behavioural problems. The police would then be in a very good position to make recommendations for child benefits to be stopped where they see fit. The two policies will be very effective if coupled.
Just before I left school 25 years ago, youngsters would be challenged in the street as to why they were not at school and their names, addresses and school were recorded. I can remember bunking school but we couldn't go walking around shopping centres or high streets - there was too much chance of being caught.
Nowadays, no one seems to care if youngsters are walking about during term time - and that includes the police. So the government can put all the measures they like in place but unless they enforced, it's all hot air.
Although I'm not totally convinced it's a good idea, I can see that putting police officers in schools will help children to get to know and understand the police in a familiar environment.
If kids only see police officers when they have done something wrong, then of course they'll associate the police with negative things. If they see the police as men and women trying to make a positive difference for everyone, then that may help.
Where are these police officers going to come from? I suppose they could do their mountain of paperwork supervised by the headteacher.
It won't make any difference where the police are located. Until we decide to apply the full provision of law against young tearaways, instead of solely "understanding their problems" at everyone else's expense, we won't make a jot of difference. I'm beginning to think that the government is starting to lose its marbles. The cabinet members should stay in after class and write out 100 times "I must stop coming up with all these daft ideas"!
I see no reason why policemen should not drift through schools from time to time but I cannot understand how anyone believes they can be stationed there indefinitely. Whenever we report crime round here we are told that there are no policemen to spare.
There are a few hundred policemen in Lincolnshire and a few thousand schools. If even one school in ten has an indigenous copper then there will be none at all to investigate any other criminal activity whatsoever.
The current recruitment policy of the police is to put arts graduates on fast track promotion schemes. Given that this has produced the witless police service we now experience, could we ask if they could just be left there to teach remedial English? This is pretty much all they are fit for.
Chris B, England
This may go some way in preventing truancy and bullying. However, what happens when young criminals are caught? Nothing. A slap on the wrist and sent off to terrorise the neighbourhood again. It's all very well coming up with these ideas but we need tougher measures once a crime is committed.
I approve the move for its dissuasive value. Maybe kids will avoid messing around too much when a cop is in the building. But it will not work if the police don't have teeth. They must be able to stamp out unruly behaviour. If they're only able to say "Stop what you're doing", kids will simply laugh at them.
It is quite interesting though, that the idea to localise policemen in such places (or shops) emanated from the US and was favoured by the Conservatives in last year's election campaign. I do hope they'll support the government on this move!
29 Apr 02 | Education
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