Leeds knife crime: Primary school teacher says early intervention is key as she teaches young pupils on lure of gangs
A Leeds teacher has stressed the importance of early education in preventing young people from picking up a knife.
Kauser Jan, an assistant headteacher at a primary school in Harehills, teaches age-appropriate lessons on the lure of gang culture from reception through to year six.
As the Yorkshire Evening Post's Saving Lives After Lockdown campaign looks at ways of preventing an upsurge in knife crime post-lockdown, Ms Jan says engaging children in mainstream education is more important than ever.
Ms Jan told the YEP: “People might think that children are too young to be hearing those messages, that we should ‘let children be children’.
“But if I don’t tell those messages, and parents don’t sit down and discuss it, where are they going to get those messages from? What are they going to be told and by whom?"
Ms Jan said it was increasingly important to educate girls on the dangers of gang culture, as both young men and women can fall victim to child criminal exploitation.
"We need to make sure that we are asking children for their own solutions," Ms Jan added.
"The best lessons I've had are where I don't have the answers. I put the problem to the children and the children have taught me more than I taught then, because they've come up with it.
“Let's start with the children. And then let's start building around them so that we are engaging them in a true form.”
One project teaching Leeds pupils about the consequences of violent crime is Positive Choices, led by the Leeds United Foundation and funded by the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).
The project began in Leeds schools but was moved online during the third lockdown, using guest speakers and video messages to engage with hard-to-reach young people who are most vulnerable to violence.
VRU director Chief Superintendent Jackie Marsh said: "We've really had to think outside the box to ensure sustained delivery of interventions and ensure that the messages on tackling serious violence continue.
"Positive Choices is a great example of a project which has quickly been able to change its approach, by creating a video in a package to be shared with pupils."
Research and education is key in preventing knife crime and serious violence in Leeds, Chief Supt Marsh said, and the VRU is funding research projects on the impact of school closures on young people.
She added: "It’s crucial for us to understand what influence Covid has had on these issues and what approaches we should now be taking to manage the subsequent fallout.”
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