Inspector Paul Dwyer on how local police officers are helping to train teachers to combat youth crime
For the public and police alike the number one priority at the moment is tackling youth violence, especially stopping youngsters from joining gangs and carrying knives in the first place.
It is evident that teachers are potentially some of the first people in a position to notice the signs and behaviours associated with gang membership and the slide into knife crime, but after consulting with headteachers in Enfield I realised that teachers did not necessarily know what to look for.
Schools themselves identified that training was necessary for their staff development and pastoral care, so I decided to organise – at no cost to the schools – a series of training days where the police and partners, including trauma leaders from North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust and Enfield Council, would take teachers and safeguarding staff through real scenarios concerned with knife crime, gangs, responses to serious incidents, and ‘county lines’. We also welcomed Yvonne Lawson, from the local youth charity Godwin Lawson Foundation, to join our training panel. Yvonne’s son Godwin, from Enfield, was stabbed to death in 2010.
We have so far run training events at three London schools, including Suffolks Primary School in Enfield, although the audience always consists of staff from many schools across North London. I’m glad to say that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The headteacher of Suffolks, Andrea Cassius, said: “My teaching staff are now much more aware of what signs to look out for in relation to gang association.”
That is exactly what I wanted to hear when I began to organise this project. More training events are being planned and the next ones will be at schools in Haringey, but I can share with you that the demand is high for many more after that and I hope every school in Enfield will eventually participate.
Ultimately what I am hoping to achieve is a real increase in joint-working between the parties that can be mobilised to tackle youth violence. We want to increase the referrals to relevant agencies, be they police, local authorities, NHS practitioners, mental health partners, family support workers, or others – so we can all help young people alter their behaviour.