The Safer School Partnership (SSP) programme was launched in September 2002 as the result of a proposal by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for a new policing model for schools. It provided a focused approach to address the high level of crime and anti-social behaviour committed, both by and against children and young people, in and around schools in some areas.
Under a joint initiative between the Department for Education and Skills (DFES), the YJB and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), there are now well over 500 police officers, in England and Wales (Over 220 in London), based in selected schools in areas with high levels of street crime. Focusing on early intervention and prevention, they work with school staff and other local agencies to:
• Reduce victimisation, criminality and anti-social behaviour within the school and its community
• Work with schools on whole-school approaches to behaviour and discipline
• Identify and work with children and young people at risk of becoming victims or offenders
• Ensure the full-time education of young offenders
• Support vulnerable children and young people through periods of transition, such as the move from primary to secondary school
• Create a safer environment for children to learn in.
Safer School Partnerships encourage the police, children and young people to build good relationship, trust and mutual respect.
What are the benefits of having a police officer in Schools?
The message from research and delivery partners is clear – Safer School Partnerships offer real benefits to schools, the police, young people and the wider community. These benefits can be seen particularly strongly in three main areas; reassurance and responsiveness; relationships and risks.
Reassurance and responsiveness
• As a member of the school community, an SSO is a highly visible and approachable presence, on hand to advise on issues around crime, safety, and the law, and work with the school to diffuse any tensions or conflicts within the school community that may arise.
• A key aim of an SSO is to build more positive relationships between young people and police. Giving young people a chance to meet police officers in school, away from some of the influences of the street, can help to foster these relationships. This can then have benefits for the police when encountering them in the wider local community.
• Interaction between different SSPs can help share innovative and successful new approaches to the work, and SSOs or other staff from different schools may wish to meet regularly to share ideas and discuss goals.
• A police link at the school may also be useful in attracting a range of other external services. For example officers from the fire service can talk to children about fire safety and the dangers of hoax calling and arson. Similar links may be made with the local ambulance service, as well as officers from transport police, secure establishments, and community organisations.
• Schools often have concerns about the wellbeing or safety of a child. An effective SSO may improve access to or contact with the appropriate services who can react to ensure the safety of the child and if necessary other members of the family. Similarly, an SSO may facilitate efficient and easy exchange of information about students at the school including those who are under the care of one of the partner external services.
• Decisions about sharing personal information must be made on a case by case basis.
What are the benefits for young people?
• feel safer, knowing that a police officer is on hand to help resolve conflicts and respond to harmful behaviour;
• learn more effectively as they grow more confident that they can attend school in safety;
• find out how to avoid being drawn into crime and anti-social or extremist behaviour and learn more about what the police do in the community;
• receive support if they have been victims of crime and learn new skills to avoid being victims and be safer on journeys to and from school;
• and benefit from a positive role model through contact with the SSP officer.
What are the benefits for the school?
• see improved student behaviour and attendance, and potentially fewer exclusions and better academic achievement;
• be helped to identify, challenge and support students most at risk of causing harm and offending through benefiting from the professional expertise a police officer can bring;
• receive support to identify and help students most susceptible to the messages of violent extremism and/or gang culture, if these are particular issues in the area;
• benefit from the specialist support the police can offer in dealing with screening students for weapons; searching students for certain items; dealing with intruders to the school, including any violent or abusive adults; and dealing with incidents where physical force is needed to control or restrain a student;
• experience a calmer school environment which is more conducive to learning and achieving and where all members of the school community will feel safer;
• integrate better within multi-agency teams, helping to support more effective interventions with students and families;
• and build better relations with the local community.
What are the benefits for parents?
• be more confident about their children's safety in an SSP school and on journeys to and from school;
• be reassured that any particular tensions in the local community such as racism, gang culture or weapons issues will not be allowed to intrude on the school;
• if their child is at risk of involvement in anti-social behaviour or crime, know that the police presence in school will help deal with this in an appropriate way;
• be reassured that teachers have the support of police in ensuring good student behaviour and attendance, and in tackling bullying;
• and know that their child is being encouraged to trust the police and to take a responsible attitude towards issues around crime.
What are the benefits for the police?
The police will
• see reductions in youth crime and anti-social behaviour, through identifying and dealing with issues at an early stage in school;
• see improved public confidence in local policing as a result of the relationships built through SSPs;
• achieve improved efficiency and better use of police time in terms of prevention and early intervention;
• be able to better support and monitor prolific and other priority young offenders through working with schools and multi-agency teams;
• be able to identify and support children and young people who feel threatened by crime and anti-social behaviour; • have the opportunity to talk to young people about local crime issues – including if there are problems around gang culture or group offending, weapon carrying or risks from violent extremism;
• and build better relationships with young people and their parents, which will have significant benefits in the wider community.
The Safer Schools officer for the academy is PC Marco Cetara 408vw who can be located during school hours Monday to Friday and is always happy to assist the students, parents, staff and community of St Marks Academy.