Pupils in schools in England are to be given additional lessons before the summer holidays warning them of the dangers of carrying knives.
Children at risk of knife crime are known to be vulnerable during the long summer break, especially if they have time on their hands and, with the schools shut, have no safe space. Campaigners say that, due to government cuts to youth services, there is also a shortage of activities for young people during the six-week holiday.
The new hour-long sessions, intended for pupils aged from 11 to 16, will attempt to challenge the myths surrounding knife possession. Real-life case studies will be used to help youngsters resist the pressure to carry a weapon. such as the story of Dean, a teenager who was arrested for carrying a knife but then turned his life around after getting help from a local support centre.
The lessons, which have been drawn up by the Home Office in collaboration with teachers and the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Association, build on existing school curriculum information on knife crime, which was first introduced last year.
Pressure has been mounting on schools to help tackle the recent rise in knife crime among young people. Between March 2017 and March 2018, there were 285 killings using a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales – the highest number since Home Office records began in 1946. The number has risen four years in a row after a long-term decline.
Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said: “Early intervention is a key part of our serious violence strategy, and it’s vital that we give young people the tools and resilience to keep themselves safe over the summer holidays.”
The St Giles Trust SOS project works with young people exposed to, or at risk of, violence and exploitation by gangs. One of its members, Pablo, said the summer holiday period was a particularly risky time for vulnerable youngsters.
He added: “If you’ve got a lot more time on your hands and a lack of direction, that can make a young person more vulnerable. In the summer holidays young people will be outside, they will be exposed to a lot more influences from older gang members who are looking for the most vulnerable people to groom, recruit and exploit.”
He said young people needed signposting to positive alternative activities to keep them engaged and in a safe space during the long summer break, but because of austerity cuts there were fewer activities available to keep them out of trouble.
Last month, the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime revealed data from more than 100 councils showing cuts to youth services of up to 91%, and claimed that areas that had seen the larger increases in knife crime had suffered the largest cuts to spending on young people.
Jonathan Baggaley, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said: “These new materials are designed to challenge inaccurate perceptions about knife crime, help young people develop the confidence to resist pressure to carry knives, and recognise positive role models.”
The lessons have been sent to 20,000 PSHE teachers. The existing teaching materials, which were first introduced in July last year, were downloaded more than 14,000 times by schools.
Source: The Guardian