Playground beat

When the government announced plans to introduce school-based
police officers, many saw it as a hard-line response to escalating
levels of violence and crime in schools.

Despite teachers citing bad discipline as one reason for leaving
the profession, there was an initial wariness among teachers about
the initiative and headteachers were worried that having a safer
schools police officer would stigmatise their school as

Under the Safer Schools Partnership programme, local police forces
write to headteachers in their local education authority area
asking if they would like a police officer. However, they are under
no pressure to appoint one, insists Andy Briers, who coordinates
the scheme’s policy and training for the Metropolitan police.

He says that, rather than simply controlling crime and violence,
the safer schools partnership officer (SSPO) is expected to advise
students on the law around issues such as drugs and guns and act as
a role model.

“There was some scepticism among headteachers but most have seen
the benefits,” he says. Indeed in the US, where police have been
based in schools for a decade, parents are now so reassured by
their presence that schools publish the number of arrests and
incidents dealt with each year.

Initially 100 schemes were set up in England in areas considered
crime hotspots, but this has now risen to nearer the 500

It is important to establish clear boundaries of the role and most
partnerships have a protocol to clarify the SSPO’s

“We are part of the staff but we are guests, “Briers explains.
“There were a few issues, which is why we developed protocols. Some
officers were being asked to fill in for the odd lesson – some of
them are ex-teachers – but that can’t happen day in day out.”

Assistant general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association Bob
Carstairs describes the partnerships as a “raging success”.

He says having a police constable in a school “kills two birds with
one stone”: the behaviour in schools and the protection of staff
and pupils. He says he doesn’t know of “a single incident that has
reflected badly on police in schools”.

An evaluation of the scheme by consultants KPMG published in
January backs up Carstairs’ positive picture – although does not
quantify the impact of SSPOs on, for example, cutting youth

However, Lesley Day, headteacher of Waverley secondary school in
south east London, can identify specific areas where her SSPO, Pc
Marcus Kudliskis (see case study) has made a difference. “I
definitely feel that the home visits made by Marcus with our
attendance officer have had an impact on students who are at the
early stages of disaffection and for whom attendance has become a

She admits they have made less headway with students who
persistently truant but is realistic about the initiative’s
limitations. “Some students are so far disengaged from society that
they wouldn’t go to school even if a judge was knocking on their

Day sees the successes of the SSPO role as entirely dependent on
the personality of the person appointed and their ability to
understand young people. Although she was not involved in the
Kudliskis’s appointment, she says she would want to be on the
interview panel for his replacement should he ever leave.

“For young people living in fractured situations where they do not
have adults they can rely on, having someone who is reliable is
very important.”

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