Growing number of Bedfordshire schools have knife arches

Knife arches are being accepted in Bedfordshire schools and are proving an effective deterrent, a meeting was told.

Supt Juliette Everett, the force’s former knife crime lead said part of her work involved intelligence gathering about young people involved in criminality, with concern over school exclusions and the effect that can have.

“The number of exclusions both fixed and permanent continues to increase,” she told the county’s police and crime panel.

“Since 2012/13 the number of permanent exclusions has increased by 63, although the figure for Bedford has started to fall,” she said.

“In Bedfordshire, it depends on which school you go to as to whether a child with a knife in school is instantly excluded and police not involved, to the police getting involved and having a conversation.

“I’ll give you an example, a young person comes in, she’ll actually have been raped, she’s so fearful of being raped again she brings a knife into school.

“That’s an instant exclusion in some. Is that right? It doesn’t feel right to me.

“So again we can have that conversation. We’ve got our own powers we can share with the schools.

“Luton started this, Bedford are buying into this. And we’re slowly getting to a point where we can agree.”

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway reminded the panel about work to involve the restorative justice practitioners in preventing exclusions from schools.

“Being excluded permanently from school, at whatever age you’re excluded, can be the beginning of a slippery slope and slide downwards into criminality or gang membership from which you may not emerge,” she said.

“We have to find some way of balancing this out because, if we lose them, we potentially lose them forever until they come to the attention of police and partners.”

Councillor Peter Hollick referred to the local authority’s new multi-agency approach to safeguarding, which he hopes will be in place by September 1st.

“Within the whole multi-agency it’s become a very complex matter with sub-groups of this here, there and everywhere,” he said.

“In terms of sharing information, it’s almost a situation where if in doubt disclose, rather then if in doubt don’t disclose.

“In this situation, how do you as a force learn about an exclusion?” he asked.

“Does the school immediately say we’ve excluded this person they come from what information they have about a vulnerable background and so on?

“But there’s a person perhaps the police should be keeping an eye on.”

Supt Everett replied: “They’re inviting us in, and we’re not finding knives in schools. Schools for me should be a real safe haven where you go to school to learn.”

Cllr Ian Dalgarno said CBC is considering how to incentivise schools not to exclude pupils.

Supt Everett was giving the update, although she is now Bedfordshire Police’s Athena programme lead.