Thursday, 26 June 2008

Adults, not metal detectors, are what schools need, says Nicki Mason

Carrying a knife is never a good idea when not on a camping trip. Most children learn this easily at an early age outside school and often without discussing it. Circumstances lead them to discover it is good to be alive, and they begin to value their own and others’ lives. For the majority of schools therefore, knife crime is absolutely not a problem, and knives feature only on the long list of items not allowed in school, along with drugs, alcohol, fireworks, chewing gum and dangly earrings.

Not all children hear the message, however, and a small minority of schools do have to deal with incidents involving knives and the circumstances surrounding them. In my experience the young person who carries a weapon does it for their own 'protection' because they feel threatened. Few have given any consideration to the most likely outcome of a confrontation - that a person or group of people bigger and stronger than them take it and use it against them. Once this is brought to their attention by an adult it is often enough to change their behaviour on the spot.

Children are capable of reason. Introducing metal detectors is to abandon reason and to send the wrong messages:

  • A metal detector at the school gate says it is acceptable to carry a knife on the street.

  • A metal detector at the classroom door says it is acceptable to carry one in the corridor.

They do not teach that carrying a knife is never a good idea, and is likely to lead to crime or death. Metal detectors do not change behaviour. Inspirational and passionate teaching of subjects, together with consistent enforcement of clearly expressed rules and discussion of reason, does. Young people are guided by the adults around them. They are inspired by adults who take a genuine interest in their lives and opinions. Every young person needs at least one adult to take a genuine interest and give sensible advice. Many find that adult in a school.

An account of the June 2008 Education Forum discussion, School knife crime ‘overplayed’, by Hannah Richardson, is available on the BBC News website: