Headlines: March 22nd, 2006

Schools and police forces are to be encouraged to work together to deal with problems of pupil behaviour and to tackle youth crime, through the Safer Schools Partnership scheme. New guidelines have been issued to help in the creation of more of the partnerships, which were originally launched in target areas under the Street Crime Initiative in 2002.The guidelines set out steps for the formation of partnerships, which could include basing police officers in schools as a way of improving pupil behaviour and dealing with attendance problems. The measure could also reduce bullying through restorative justice schemes. Other possibilities are the use of designated officers to liaise with schools as part of neighbourhood policing teams and local police forces working with schools and bus and train companies to improve the behaviour of pupils travelling to and from schools.

The Government says research shows that the 400 existing partnerships have delivered real benefits. In Westminster, for example, where police officers take part in truancy sweeps and run restorative justice schemes to deal with bullying, schools have reported a 20 per cent drop in permanent exclusions and a 29 per cent drop in fixed-term exclusions. In the same area there has been a 29 per cent fall in youth crime around Safer Schools Partnership schools. Rochdale has also reported a 12 per cent drop in crime and reductions in anti-social behaviour.

In another London borough – Hackney – there has been an increase in the number of pupils wanting to join the police cadets after officers took part in summer holiday schemes for vulnerable children. Wolverhampton, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham have all reported improvements in school security.Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes said the Safer Schools Partnerships were closely linked to the Government’s Every Child Matters commitment and they showed that schools and police forces working together could deliver benefits to young people by identifying and supporting those at risk of victimisation, and tackling offending or anti-social behaviour.

Charles Clark, the Deputy Chief Constable of Essex Police and Chair of ACPO’s Youth Issues Group, said the partnerships were neighbourhood policing in its purest context. “The Safer Schools Partnership approach has consistently demonstrated benefits for policing in the local community. Positive contact between children and young people with an identifiable police officer is maximised for the benefit of whole communities particularly through the SSP focus on those young people most at risk of social exclusion through victimisation, anti-social behaviour and offending,” he added.