Five children were excluded from Devon schools for possessing weapons in 2018/19, debate on knife crime is told

Five children were permanently excluded from schools in Devon for possession of an offensive weapon last year.

The figure was revealed at last Thursday’s Devon County Council meeting, when questions around knife crime were asked.

Councillor James McInnes, cabinet member for children’s services and schools, told the meeting that Devon is a very safe place to live.

Cllr McInnes said: “Fewer than five children have been permanently excluded from school for possession of an offensive weapon during the academic year 2018/19.

“The legal definition of an offensive weapon is any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person or intended by the person having it with him for such use by him, or by some other person.

“However, the weapons have sometimes been found in a school bag rather than a child being physically in possession of the weapon.”

Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour Group, had asked how many children have been caught carrying weapons in Devon’s schools in recent years.

He questioned what is being done collectively across the wider educational community in Devon to deal with the serious issue.

Cllr Hannaford said: “Scotland halted the rise in youth knife crime by giving young people more help and support with education, youth work, training, mental health, employment and housing. Can this joined up multi-agency approach be used in Devon?

“It is key that we are keeping an eye on it and I welcome that only five children have been excluded for carrying knives in school.

“It is vital it is kept in perspective, but, sadly, like county lines, these things do tend to come down to the far South West.

“Hopefully it will stay in single figures, but the more prevention work we can do, the better.”

Cllr McInnes responded: “We must not demonise children by making it a bigger issue in Devon than it is.”

Explaining what is being done to tackle the issue, he added: “Knife crime is a shared responsibility, led by the Safer Devon Partnership (SDP), to tackle all forms of antisocial behaviour.

“Antisocial behaviour groups in the community safety partnerships work with the youth intervention officers from the police.

“In 2018, the Devon Children and Families Partnership and SDP began to develop a framework for multi-agency coordination of the risks to young people from outside their family, in recognition of the emerging county-wide and national indicators of concern.

“A new adolescent safety framework has just been launched, with the key changes in practice including a single and holistic approach to assessment of individual children, peer groups, neighbourhood, location or person/people of concern that guides the assessor to the correct pathway or action through the identification of vulnerabilities, behaviours, environment, relevant concerns, indicators as well as protective factors.”

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