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Officers in schools provide essential support, says lead on Young People

The NPCC lead on children and young people has disagreed with a recommendation made today that Schools Officers should be withdrawn.

The NPCC has disagreed with a recommendation made by a race equality think tank that Schools Officers should be withdrawn.

The report, published today, revealed that there are 979 police officers operating in UK schools.

The decision to have officers in schools is made jointly by schools/colleges and the police.

Race Equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, said that Safer Schools Officers (SSO) “fail to support a safer school environment”. Particularly, they said, for Black and ethnic minority children who are “already over-policed and under-protected”.

Their research, based on freedom of information requests, showed that half of SSOs are based in London.

The research further suggests that officers are more likely to be in schools in areas with higher numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals.

Such areas are also likely to have higher numbers of black and ethnic minority students, the Runnymede Trust said.

In response, Met T/DAC Catherine Roper, NPCC Lead for Children and Young Persons, has said that school officers are essential “to ensure that we can provide support and guidance to pupils in schools and colleges”.

“Officers are there to build trust and forge relationships with students and staff and empower young people to know their rights,” she continued.

“I disagree with the recommendation of the report that Schools Officers should be withdrawn. I am keen to work with the Runnymede Trust to understand their report fully and to work together to find ways to improve upon the concerns they raise.”

Today’s report says there is no evidence that a police presence in schools helps to reduce youth violence.

It instead states that academic research indicates models involving a broader public health approach are “more likely to reduce youth crime”.

The Runnymede Trust concluded: “The punitive nature of policing, coupled with longstanding experiences of over policing in Black and minority ethnic communities, means that the police can be an intimidating and threatening presence for these students.

“In addition, we are concerned that the widening of the role of police in schools may impact the racialisation of the Prevent duty.

“Prevent produces highly racialised surveillance of Muslim and South Asian pupils, and we believe that the presence of police in schools is likely to be particularly detrimental for students from those groups. The entanglement of Safer School Officers with Prevent will only add to the culture of surveillance facing Muslim student.”

Four recommendations have been made by the Runnymede Trust;

-that the government should end the power of the police to strip search children

-that in any rare instances where the strip search of a child is essential, forces should enforce their own rules and ensure an appropriate adult is always present

-government should require all forces to discontinue participation with Safer Schools Partnerships and withdraw Safer Schools Officers

-government should invest greater funding in local authorities and schools (so that they can provide necessary measures to safeguard and support children).

T/DAC Roper, who was recently confrimed as the new chief constable of Dorset Police said: “Police involvement with schools is closely monitored and agreed with headteachers and education authorities.

“We fully accept that some of our powers, like stop and search, are disproportionately applied to Black communities, and we are working hard – including the full 43 force commitment to the Police Race Action Plan - to put this right.

“I have personally contacted the Runnymede Trust on the back of their report and I am delighted that they have accepted our offer to be part of our ongoing research into police officers in schools, alongside the Youth Endowment Fund.”

A Government spokesman said: “Schools are legally required to work closely with local authorities, police, and healthcare professionals to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of all children in a local area.

“The deployment of individual officers is an operational decision for police forces and a matter for individual schools, working together to decide the best approach.

“We have published revised Searching, Screening and Confiscation guidance which has been updated to emphasise safeguarding policies, providing clear advice to staff and parents on how and when to safely screen or search a child.

“The guidance also provides new advice on recording searches, informing parents, and supporting the voice of the child.”

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