Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 17:51 UK

Schools 'should have own police'

Police officers at a school
Lord Adonis said police officers worked effectively within schools

Every school should have a dedicated police officer available to them to help cut violent crime, England's Schools Minister Lord Adonis has said.

Schools in more challenging areas could benefit particularly from help from police, the minister said.

Some 450 schools already have designated officers in schools. Others share them with a group of schools.

Lord Adonis told delegates at education union Voice's annual conference that schools must be kept safe.

He told delegates at the conference in Daventry: "Nothing is more imperative than that we keep weapons out of school.

"This is why we gave schools the power to search without consent pupils whom they suspect to be carrying weapons, and are proposing to extend this power.

"Few schools may feel the need to use such powers, but it is important that those that do have the powers available."

Community policing

He said head teachers were "warmly supportive" of having police officers in their schools and that debate had moved beyond whether they should be there at all.

They were now seen as a "highly positive" presence, he said.

"Officers work effectively within the school community," he said.

"They are not regarded as outsiders but part of the school community.

"They give a much richer dimension to the concept of community policing, to which police forces have long been committed. Of course this only happens when a schools wants it."

Lord Adonis added: "We've been encouraging local police forces to make more officers available to schools."

Trained officers could carry out searches for weapons where that was appropriate, he said.

Mixed reaction

The head of another teachers' union, Chris Keates of the NASUWT, said many schools would welcome police officers.

She said it could also have benefits for the wider community by breaking down barriers, promoting greater understanding and forging more positive relationships between the police and young people.

But shadow schools minister Nick Gibb said: "It's a sad fact of the decline in discipline in many schools that some are now having to work closely with police to ensure the safety of children and teachers.

"Rather than seeing police repeatedly called to schools, we want to give teachers more powers to restore order to the classroom."

And Liberal Democrat spokesman David Laws said: "It is a sad state of affairs when the threat of violence in our schools means ministers are proposing to give each school a dedicated police officer.

"However, with the number of police officers now falling, the Government must explain where these officers will come from. Our children will not be any safer if police officers are taken off our streets."




SEE ALSO
School power to search for knives
31 May 07 |  Education
Heads 'want police knife checks'
25 Jul 06 |  Education
'A fifth of teens' carry a weapon
22 Jul 08 |  Education

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