Department for Education
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New search power to keep schools safe

New search power to keep schools safe

DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND SKILLS News Release (2007/0096) issued by The Government News Network on 31 May 2007

Teachers now have the power to search pupils for knives and offensive weapons without consent as part of the Government's drive to ensure schools continue to be safe and secure places to learn.

The new power, which comes into force today, comes alongside the ability for schools to screen pupils for violent weapons using devices such as arches and 'wand' metal detectors.

Guidance for schools on how best to use these new measures, also published today, makes it clear that screening and searching can be carried out by professional trained security staff, as well as teachers, but where there is felt to be any risk to safety, the police should be called.

Education and Skills Secretary, Alan Johnson said:

"Every child has the right to learn in a secure and safe environment. Fortunately knife incidents in schools are extremely rare and the majority of schools will not need to use these measures.

"The main way to keep knives out of our schools is to continue educating young people about the dangers associated with illegally carrying a knife. But one violent crime caused by a weapon is one too many.

"This new power was called for by teachers, but our guidance makes clear that a search should never take place where there is any risk to staff or pupils. In those circumstances the police should be called.

"Schools can also use metal detector arches and wands to screen pupils for knives where the head feels this is helpful and would work as a deterrent. I think parents will welcome the clear message that bringing a weapon into school is a criminal offence and will not be tolerated.

"Screening, alongside today's new power for searches, means that schools now have the law behind them so they can take the necessary action to prevent weapons from coming through the front gate."

The Guidance advises heads how to screen pupils and suggests that randomly selected group of pupils, such as a class, could be screened in order to send a strong deterrent message. The guidance also makes clear that a pupil can be refused entry to the school or a visit if they refuse to be screened.

The guidance highlights the fact that no member of staff, unless authorised by the head teacher, can undertake a search.

It also makes clear that:

* two members of staff must always be present at a search, and recommends that both should have received appropriate training;
* the search must be undertaken by a staff member who is the same sex as the pupil; and
* where possible, it should take place out of public view.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said:

"These new measures in the Violent Crime Reduction Act send out a clear message that violence and weapons will not be tolerated in our schools.

"It is important that schools remain a safe haven where teachers and pupils are protected, even in challenging areas. We must stop problems in the wider community passing through the school gate.

"Young people are often the victims of crime and it is our duty to protect them. I'm sure that we have the full support of parents, teachers and the vast majority of well-behaved pupils in making schools safe 'no go areas' for weapons."

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. For copies of the guidance visit http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/healthandsafety/

2. The power applies to schools and further education establishments in England.

3. The Violent Crime Reduction Act received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006 and its measures have been introduced on a staggered basis. The Act can be viewed online at: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/ukpga_20060038_en.pdf

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