England’s children’s commissioner calls for police in schools
Schools should install police officers to assist those who are most vulnerable to gangs, the children’s commissioner for England has said.
Anne Longfield set out her six-point plan to transform children’s welfare in the UK, which included a call for schools to stay open seven days a week in order to help students in most need of support, while criticising politicians for prioritising Brexit over the needs of vulnerable children.
“I want politicians to think seriously about whether they are truly prioritising these things,” she said. “I’ve heard more political conversation about HS2, water nationalisation and tax cuts – and, of course, Brexit – than about children.”
She added: “We should be ashamed that there are literally millions of kids in England not having the childhood a decent society would want.”
A million children need mental health support, more than 120,000 are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, more than 50,000 are not getting any education and nearly 30,000 are in violent gangs, according to Longfield.
The commissioner made the comments while launching the new plan, which sets out the six points she wants to be included in any political party’s election manifesto. The “children’s manifesto” includes proposals to attach neighbourhood police units to schools, bolster mental health facilities for students and improve funding for pupils with special needs.
The plan calls on schools to be given the tools to help combat the influence of gangs on students, with the manifesto stating that vulnerable youngsters are “easy pickings” for gangs, which act with impunity.
“In more and more areas of the country, gangs operate openly in streets and parks, and groom increasingly younger children,” the manifesto says. “Those children with most time on their hands – those attending part-time school such as pupil referral units, for instance, or not getting on at home, disengaged and marginalised – are easy pickings for gangs.”
Councillor Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, welcomed the government’s recent cash injection for education, but said funding pressures have forced many councils to cut or end early intervention services that can prevent problems. “It therefore remains vital that services supporting young people, children and families are fully funded,” she said.
Last week the government announced a £14bn spending plan over three years for England’s schools, with £2.6bn for schools in 2020-21 and additional funding increasing to £4.8bn in 2021-22 and £7.1bn in 2022-23.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We are making record investments in education and in children’s services to help improve outcomes and support young people to overcome the challenges they face.
“This includes action across government on children’s mental health, making sure excluded pupils receive a good education, tackling the root causes of violent crime, supporting parents with early learning at home and providing tailored support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.”