The role of the police in safeguarding of children and young people has been showcased at Fitzalan High School in Cardiff – at an event to celebrate the work of the newly renamed Wales Police Schools Programme. The focus was on the pupils in the event, giving them a chance to explore the significant role the programme plays in supporting their safety and looking forward to life after the pandemic.
Pupils and teachers met Alun Michael , Police and Crime Commissioner, along with Temporary Chief Constable Claire Parmenter (Dyfed-Powys Police), and Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle – and the event provided an opportunity for pupils to pose questions to all of them about all aspects of the programme.
Following a review by Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables, with Welsh Government Ministers, and consultation with Teachers, pupils and parents across Wales, the refreshed Wales Police Schools Programme is demonstrating enormous commitment to children and young people - boosted by the confirmation of continuing joint funding by the Welsh Government and the Police across Wales of nearly £2 million. It is an example of successful partnership working between the Welsh Government and the four Welsh Police Forces, where the aim is to safeguard the children of Wales through crime prevention education.
The programme uses Crime Prevention inputs in the classroom but also supports the whole school community aiming to:
promote the principles of positive citizenship through the school environment
achieve a reduction in the levels of crime and disorder amongst young people.
educate children and young people about the risks to their health and wellbeing from online threats, substance misuse and other aspects of modern life – as well as dangers to their families and the wider community
As changes emerge in the wider environment of crime and the threats facing young people, officers seconded to schools need to be agile and flexible so Commissioners and Chief Constables agreed on a shift from a purely lesson-based approach to a ‘whole school’ one, with a wider pastoral role for the Schools Police Officers that is adapted to the specific needs of particular schools or units.
A snapshot of the programme’s success over the period September 2020 to July 2021, includes:
12,141 Crime Prevention presentations and lessons
91% of schools involved
404,255 children and young people have had lessons and inputs from School Police Officers
School Police Officers helped schools deal with 7,773 incidents, keeping thousands of pupils from getting a criminal record
Faith McCready, National Coordinator for the Wales Police Schools Programme said: “We are privileged to work with schools across Wales, who invite us to deliver sessions about vitally important topics that impact on children and young people. We are passionate that the well-being of young people is central to our work, and that they have the opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the Programme as they did at this event in Fitzalan High School.”
The review revealed very strong support for the programme, particularly from teachers and parents as well as children themselves. One head teacher said they would struggle to find the expertise or credibility on subjects which School Police Officers cover and they would not be able to sustain the competent or effective service the programme gives to children and young people at a vital point in their development as young adults. The fact that police officers are routinely welcomed, listened to and included in a child’s education from Reception to Year 13 is a crucial part of children’s educational journey.
A survey sent to schools across the four forces in Wales found that of the 561 children that responded, 64% stated that Schools Police Officers had positively changed their views of Police, and 74% of children felt they could speak to their Schools Police Officer if they needed help or guidance on any issues they might be experiencing.
Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle said: “As a government we want all children and young people to grow up healthy, safe and happy. The Wales Police Schools programme helps to educate children in a safe and engaging way about important issues. It provides an outlet for them to express their opinions on topics that can affect our lives. The programme provides engaging learning tailored to school year groups and I was pleased to be able to attend the event and to see for myself how young people interact with the programme.”
South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael added: “It was a pleasure to be able to join pupils and partners, including a Welsh Government Minister, to celebrate the Wales Police Schools Programme and recognise its contribution to improving the safety and resilience of communities across Wales.
“I am particularly pleased that Fitzalan High School was chosen as the location for this celebration; it is a school I hold in particularly high regard, having served within the local communities as their MP for 25 years and now as their Police & Crime Commissioner. In setting out his principles for policing, Sir Robert Peel stated that ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’; this means that the police have to be really embedded in and reflect their community to be a part of it. That's why it's so important to have police officers in schools, because each school is a community in its own right and sits at the heart of every community. I believed this passionately when I was a youth worker, engaged with schools across Cardiff. Having a police officer spending time in every school, engaging with young people and delivering tailored prevention messages that reflect local issues is critical to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, whilst strengthening relationships between the police and communities.”
Dyfed-Powys Police Temporary Chief Constable Claire Parmenter said: “I was delighted to be at the event to celebrate the Wales Police Schools Programme, which I think is an excellent example of partnership working between the Welsh Government, the four Welsh Police Forces and our partners in Education across Wales.
“This programme provides a wrap-around service to schools in Wales offering crime prevention, education and supportive policing services to our young people.
“Our Schools Community Police Officers are trained to deliver lessons on current themes which can impact the lives of our young people such as substance misuse, personal safety and how young people can further safeguard themselves online and via their mobile phones. In addition to their professional training as Police Officers, our School Officers support schools in many ways through supportive policing; dealing with incidents and offering restorative resolutions including restorative conferencing when required.
“I am grateful to our partners for their continued support in this vital area of Policing.”
At the event pupils asked some probing questions of the panel, and a lively and informative discussion was had in response to those.
Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales said: “I'm a big fan of the programme having watched and taken part in several lessons over the last few years - the Wales Police Schools Programme provides really important support to our children and young people and their schools, and will continue to do so, particularly with the new curriculum.
“And most of all, and this is particularly close to my heart, the programme and the officers delivering it engage with children and young people, to make sure that children are aware of and afforded all of their human rights in schools, and they're supported with them.
“Well done to all involved in the programme, and I'm really excited to see some of the resources and continue to follow your excellent work throughout Wales.”