Police called to Plymouth schools 3,000 times in three years
POLICE have been called to primary and secondary schools nearly 2,700 times in the last three years.
The figures were revealed in an investigation by The Herald which found some occasions where children had been using baseball and cricket bats, hot coal and scissors as weapons in the classroom.
Although there have been a total of 2,688 incidents in city schools requiring police attention since 2009, over the last three years those figures have declined year on year.
In 2009/2010 there was a total of 1,006 incidents, in 2010/2011 that figure declined to 939 and for 2011/2012 that dropped to 743 crimes.
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Following these call outs, altogether 1,189 of the calls have been recorded as anti-social behaviour, 947 have been recorded as public safety and 345 instances have been recorded as a crime.
The call outs have also included 56 instances involving transport.
Disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information request from The Herald, in that time the weapons used include tables, a stone, scissors, a piece of wood, a metal bar, hot coal, a cricket bat, a bottle and a baseball bat.
A joint response from Plymouth City Council and Devon and Cornwall Police said: "Plymouth does not have a problem with weapons in its schools and they remain very safe places for pupils and teachers.
"Schools take a very firm line on the presence of weapons and although staff are fully trained to deal with any incidents that occur, they are extremely rare.
"These figures must not be misconstrued or taken out of context. There is a world of difference between an incident and an actual crime – and we are pleased to have seen a steady reduction in both.
"Many 'incidents' occur outside school hours or during the school holidays – for example a member of the public reporting someone acting suspiciously outside the school gates at night.
"The vast majority of incidents attended by the police in or around schools do not end up as recorded crimes and only a tiny proportion involve weapons of any sort.
"Of the 743 incidents the police attended in 2011/12, only 79 actual crimes were recorded and just two involved a weapon (0.27 per cent of all incidents). In 2010/11 this figure was 0.63 per cent and in 2009/10 it was 0.3 per cent. Any incident involving a weapon is taken very seriously but, as these figures show, these occur rarely in Plymouth's schools."
Headteachers were keen to point out that it was important not to associate police call-outs purely with student discipline.
Kieran Earley, chair of the Plymouth Learning Trust and headteacher of Devonport High School for Boys, said: "There will be a variety of reasons why schools may contact the police; most schools will have an extremely positive, pro-active relationship with the service.
"The Plymouth Learning Trust embodies collaborative practice among our secondary schools. Colleagues know they can pick up a phone and contact members for advice or support on a variety of issues including student and community conduct."
Mr Earley said schools are aware that premises can be targets for anti-social behaviour outside of hours so headteachers take a variety of security measures.
Heidi Price, chair of the Plymouth Association of Primary Headteachers, said many incidents occur outside school hours or during the school holidays.
She added members of the public may be reporting people acting suspiciously outside the school gates at night.
"We work closely as a multi-agency team with Plymouth City Council and the police to ensure our schools continue to be safe for our students. These figures must not be misconstrued or taken out of context," Ms Price said.
"There is a great difference between an incident and an actual crime and we are pleased to have seen a steady reduction in both."