Should schools be responsible for spotting signs of youth violence?

Teachers, NHS worker and police officers could be held responsible for reporting potential youth violence, according to the home secretary

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, has launched a consultation regarding whether public services – such as schools and the NHS – should be responsible for reporting concerns over children at risk of committing violence.

Last week, it was announced that more police would be used in London schools as knife crime as been on the rise.

In response, Javid has said that he will assess whether teachers, healthcare workers and police officers in England and Wales should be held accountable if they fail to stop the signs of youth violence.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, responded to this news:

“Neither the blame for or the solution to violent crime can be laid at the door of schools or front-line hospital staff. Schools already have strong safeguarding practices in place and staff will be alerted to any issues of concern.

“The problem is what happens after issues of concern have been identified. Schools have lost pastoral support, special needs teachers and school councillors.

“Too many families and communities have suffered the devastating consequences of violent crime. It needs real solutions put in place to prevent yet more incidents occurring – solutions that address the causes and not just the symptoms.

“The home secretary should accept the impact the decimation of youth services has had, leaving very few safe places for children to go outside of school hours or during the holidays. The severe cutbacks to support services to deal with behaviour issues that occur in and outside of schools are also a major issue.

“Schools sometimes, but always reluctantly, have to exclude pupils. However, the illegal off-rolling of pupils who too often drop through the system with no adequate safety net to catch them cannot be justified. To stop this happening schools need the resources, support and funding to cope with pupils with additional needs and we need an accountability system that does not penalise schools who are working with children with complex needs.”

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added:

“It is hard to see how it would be either workable or reasonable to make teachers accountable for preventing knife crime. What sort of behaviour would they be expected to report and who would they report to? How would they be held accountable, for what, and what would the consequences be? How would the government prevent the likelihood of over-reporting caused by the fear of these consequences?

“Aside from the practical considerations, we have to ask whether it is fair to put the onus on teachers for what is essentially a government failure to put enough police on the streets.”

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