A shocking picture detailing the extent of knife crime in Leeds’ schools is today laid bare as it emerges the number of children caught carrying weapons has more than doubled in the last year alone.
Over the past two years, exclusive figures from West Yorkshire Police reveal, 227 crimes involving the use of knives have been reported in the county’s schools.
In Leeds, these include reports of robbery, burglary, rape and threats to kill, with the number of children caught carrying a knife in school rising from 20 in 2016 to 51 last year - more than one every week of term on average.
Nationwide, the figures show, there has been a 42 per cent increase in the number of cases reported to police in the last full school year.
“These are frightening statistics,” said Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC.
“The message still has to get through to young people that carrying a knife for your own protection is probably the most dangerous thing you can do.”
The investigation, following a series of high-profile attacks in schools including that on Dr Uzomah and the murder of Leeds teacher Ann Maguire, reveals a growing threat of knife crime in Yorkshire and nationwide.
Across Yorkshire, more than 650 knife crimes have been reported in schools, with more than 320 children caught carrying knives since 2012.
West Yorkshire Police, which only provided figures for the last two calendar years, recorded a 48 per cent increase in the number of children caught with knives in school, going up from 90 in 2016 to 134 in 2017.
A nine-year-old in Leeds was reported to police for wielding a flick knife in school, figures obtained by the Yorkshire Evening Post reveal. Meanwhile, 12 sets of knuckle dusters were also confiscated in other incidents, along with a blade fixed to a pen.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson of West Yorkshire Police said a number of initiatives were underway to tackle knife crime in the county, from amnesties to working in schools to a campaign launching next month nationwide.
“The number of people aged 18 and under reported to be in possession of a knife on school premises did increase in 2017 when compared to 2016 – this is something we recognise and are taking action against,” she said.
“Some of the increase is down to the improved way we record crime but some of it is also a genuine increase. We treat all instances of knife crime extremely seriously.”
The Government says it is “determined to tackle” the devastating consequences of knife crime in schools.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This Government has taken decisive action to put teachers back in charge of discipline in the classroom by strengthening their powers to take action if they suspect a pupil has brought prohibited items, including knives, into school.
“It is of paramount importance that schools provide a safe environment for their pupils, and any incident that does occur is completely unacceptable. Knife crime has devastating consequences and this Government is determined to tackle this and do all it can to break the deadly cycle and protect our children, families and communities.”
A new Serious Violence Strategy is to be published by the Government in the next few months, while a public consultation has been launched on new laws on offensive weapons, including plans to restrict online knife sales.
This would also introduce an offence of having an article with blade or point or offensive weapon on education institutions other than schools.
And with regards to introducing the topic of knife crime into the curriculum, the DfE said teachers can currently teach about this as part of PSHE, and it has launched a call for evidence to invite views on subject content.