SCARY WAKE UP CALL FOR LONDON: MORE CHILDREN ARE CARRYING KNIVES TO SCHOOL

The number of children carrying knives in London’s schools has doubled in the last five years, shocking new figures reveal today.

Statistics released by the Met police show that the number of knife related crimes in schools is also rising as politicians described the figures as a “wake up call” for London.

The data shows that the number of pupils caught in possession of knives in schools has risen for a fifth successive year, with 299 students found with knives in 2016, compared to 236 in 2015 and 203 in 2014.  In 2011, there were 152 children caught carrying knives in schools.

Figures also show a 26 percent increase in the number of knife related crimes taking place in London schools since 2014.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, whose party uncovered the figures, said: “These figures are deeply worrying. We need to get these weapons out of our schools.”

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Emergency services outside Victoria Station in central London, where two schoolboys were stabbed and taken to hospital (PA)

He called on Mayor Sadiq Khan to do more, saying : “Most schools provide a secure environment where children enjoy learning, but some are failing our children and becoming more unsafe.

“Carrying a weapon in school does not mean it is just a school matter – the police will become involved and take action. The Mayor needs to do more to keep weapons out of our schools.”

He added: “As a Dad with children at school this should be a wake-up call.”

London has been shocked by a number of fatal stabbings in recent months.

The figures emerged as police are battling a year on year 14 per cent rise in knife crime across the capital. Nationally knife crime hit a four year high in 2016, after a significant decline in incidents from 2008 onwards.

 Patrick Green, manager of the anti-knife crime charity The Ben Kinsella Trust, blames the rise in both possession and offences on the “Government dropping the ball” and wants the dangers of knives to be included in the national curriculum.

He said: “Young people often hold a number of irrational beliefs and misconceptions about carrying a knife. Some young people believe that carrying a knife will protect them, when in fact the opposite is true.”

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“In our experience most of the young people who hold these assumptions have been victims of crime in the past and fear further victimisation. For a smaller number of the others it is a status thing, they feel it helps them establish respect in their group.”

Brooke Kinsella, the Eastenders actress who founded the Ben Kinsella Trust after her 16-year-old brother was stabbed to death in Islington in 2008, was commissioned by David Cameron to write a report on knife crime in 2011.

She found that prevention groups were finding it “extremely difficult” to get into schools to get their message across.

However Mr Green added: “There are still schools who are failing to engage with organisations who can help their pupils understand the risks associated with carrying knives.”

The Met recorded 67 knife crime offences in London schools in 2014, 71 offences in 2015, and 85 in 2016.

The rising numbers could partly be down to improved reporting following the death of teacher Ann Maguire in 2014 who was stabbed by one of her pupils.

Martin Powell Davies, London Regional Secretary, National Union of Teachers, said schools need more resources and time in the curriculum to be able to pick up issues and educate young people about the dangers of carrying knives.

The Met’s Trident gangs unit has already delivered educational presentations on knife crime to 14,000 young people across London and there are 292 Safer Schools Officers deployed across 550 London schools.

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Office for Policing and Crime also want to increase the number of schools officers to cover every secondary school and college in the city.

London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, Sophie Linden, said: “The Mayor’s top priority is keeping Londoners safe, and both he and I are deeply concerned about the rise in knife crime in the capital.

“Our schools should be places of safety, so we’re working with police to take knives off London’s streets by targeting those who carry weapons, placing officers in schools to educate young people about the dangers of carrying a knife, and working with retailers to explore what more can be done to reduce the underage sale of knives.”

Later this month Mr Khan will launch the Mayor’s Police and Crime Plan that makes tackling knife and gang crime a core priority, which follows his Knife Crime Summit held last Autumn.

EVENING STANDARD

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