Minority blamed for 7,000 police call-outs to schools

Police officers had to be called into schools in England because of violent incidents over 7,000 times in the last 12 months, it has emerged.

Information obtained by the Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act from 25 of the 39 English police forces highlight the number of times officers were called to school premises for an attempted or actual violent crime.

Shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove described the figures as “very worrying”.

“Teachers, parents and children are all too aware of the threat of violence in schools and the corrosive effect it has on creating a safe learning environment,” he said.

“There will always be the odd occasion when teachers need to call on the police for support with a serious incident but at the moment they do not have sufficient powers to nip discipline problems in the bud.

“We want to give teachers more authority to remove disruptive and violent children from the classroom and to tackle problems of bad behaviour before they spiral out of control.”

The Tories claim the figures follow a number of serious incidents in schools, including teachers’ unions’ complaints about security and a recent survey showing almost a third of secondary school children admitting to have carried a knife.

Almost 350 children are suspended from school every day for assaulting other pupils, recent figures show, with a survey by the Association for Teachers and Lecturers in March revealing that nearly a third of all teachers had been punched, kicked or bitten by pupils.

In response to the figures, teachers’ unions rejected the claim that schools were becoming more dangerous and claimed it was a minority of pupils who were causing problems.

Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, commented: “While Michael Gove’s initial reading of the figures could look worrying, he should dig deeper into the reasons why schools phone the police.

“An important reason is that police/school liaison has improved tremendously since the problems with security experienced by schools a decade ago. The second is that, as our own survey showed, there are a minority of pupils whose behaviour has become much worse.

“Schools are still one of the safest places for many children. While teachers now have the powers to deal with bad behaviour, it has become a serious matter for wider society that the behaviour of a minority of pupils, and in some cases their parents, have seriously worsened in recent years.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, added the figures raised more questions that they answered.

“They are not a complete picture across all police forces and fail to take account of the variations in police response policies,” he said.

“The figures do not highlight whether the incidents are pupil on pupil, pupil on teacher or involve intruders or visitors to the premises.”

He added that the real issue of concern was the fact that in recent years schools have been handed increasing powers to tackle pupil indiscipline, but that many were failing to use them.