Schools will play a key role in tackling knife crime in Sheffield

Coun Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Education
Coun Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Education

Schools need a closer relationship with the council, police and communities to tackle knife crime, says a senior Sheffield councillor.

In an exclusive interview, Coun Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Education, says many schools have severed all links with the council since becoming academies.

But she warns they must work in partnership as the city grapples with the growing issue of knife crime.

Coun Dunn wants Year 7 pupils, those aged 11 to 12 in the first year of secondary school, to be educated about the danger of knives.

And she wants to introduce a citywide protocol which parents, teachers and the council can follow if there are any serious incidents at schools, such as the recent mass brawl at Fir Vale School.

“The role that education and our schools play here is vitally important,” she said. “Our aim is to make sure that all Y7s and above have an awareness of knife crime and what can happen if they make the wrong decisions.

“We know with gang violence that they target vulnerable children and that’s why I’m keen to get information into schools.

“There is a lot of work on Child Sexual Exploitation but there is a different kind of grooming happening where gangs try to get younger boys involved in crime.

“My ability to influence academies is very slim but my job is to decide what is best for the city. I would question why any school would not want their pupils to be educated about the dangers of knife crime?

“We have to think about our children’s safety. I can’t force schools because they have autonomy but I think parents will be on board with me and I would challenge any school that doesn’t want to participate.”

The Fir Vale fight saw crowds of concerned parents and residents gather outside the school gates as news spread in the community. There were angry scenes as police officers tried to restore calm.

Coun Dunn said: “The fight at Fir Vale School highlighted gaps and it would be remiss of us as a council not to do anything about it. I am thankful we can work on preventing issues like this happening again rather than acting after the death of someone.

“I want a citywide protocol for incidents, not each school to have a different system. Everyone gravitates to the council to get answers because we have the connections with the police and the community but we don’t have that connection with schools anymore.

“My job is to be the voice of the people and say what we need as a city. Schools are a massive part of our communities but we as a council we can’t get involved with them.

“This is not about telling teachers how to teach, it’s about supporting the school, parents and the community.

“Schools are cast adrift by Government policy and the council doesn’t have that link with them which we used to but we need to rebuild it.

“I want to really strengthen that link between schools and the community. There are pressures on both and we need to come together to address these.”

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings has secured almost £1.25 million to teach young people about child criminal exploitation.

Det Supt Una Jennings, South Yorkshire Police lead for knife crime, said she was ‘absolutely delighted’ the county had secured the funding.

She said: “The money gives us some other avenues to go down and, in particular, the early intervention work with kids in education. We will be using it to have conversations with people about the risks before they get involved with gangs.”