Almost 1,000 pupils have been caught in schools with weapons including items such as guns, axes and a meat cleaver in the last three years.
The latest statistics show that 981 children have had weapons confiscated on school premises since 2011 including at least 80 children of primary school age. Some 36 pupils were found with an assortment of guns, including two hand guns, seven air-powered weapons and 27 BB guns. Of those found with weapons, 329 caught with such items were subsequently charged with a criminal offence.
One 18-year-old, who is currently taking part in a young offending team course said:
“I carried a weapon … but only because of the environment I was in.
“My generation is a bit wild … so it’s a normal thing to carry a weapon because you know everyone else is. It’s making it fair, basically.”
Campaigners warned the scale of the problem is likely to be much worse, as nearly half of the UK’s 52 police forces did not supply figures requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Data from West Midlands Police was not included as it also accounted for colleges and universities. The figures raise questions about whether schools and the Government have failed to tackle the problem.
Jayne Walmsley, whose son Luke was murdered in 2004 at the age of 14 at a Lincolnshire school said:
“Something is happening to the society we live in.
“We need to think and educate these kids. It’s got to stop. We’ve got to do something about it.
“Sometimes it’s a bit like banging your head on a brick wall.
“Schools won’t admit to the problem because all they want is more pupils for more money.”
The Government said it had given teachers increased powers to take action should they suspect a pupil has brought a prohibited weapon into school. A spokesman for the Department for Education said:
“Teachers can now search pupils without consent, confiscate prohibited items and use force to remove disruptive pupils from the classroom when necessary.
“We’ve also given heads the final say on expulsions by removing the right of appeal panels to put pupils back in the classroom.”
However, Chris Douglas, a youth worker who engages with young people caught up in crime, warned the use of weapons is a massively increasing problem.
“We’re not hearing about stabbings because they’re becoming more common.”
In 2013, a study by University College London and charity Kids Company found half the young people working with the organisation had seen someone shot or stabbed in their community in the past 12 months. In 2009 the Government announced new measures to attempt to tackle the problem of weapons in schools after a number of attacks against children.
There were plans to introduce metal detectors as part of a violent crime action plan. However, such plans never came to fruition and many are concerned the issue has disappeared from the public domain leaving young people increasingly vulnerable.