Senior Uttlesford headteachers back controversial crime initiative

HRS headteacher Simon Knight

HRS headteacher Simon Knight - Credit: Archant

Schools could join forces with the police to deter Uttlesford pupils from committing crime.

Three senior school headteachers have backed an idea for police to alert them to youth offending by their students – but some parents and councillors have expressed concern about whether it would be ethical.

The scheme was suggested by Simon Knight, headteacher at Helena Romanes School, in Great Dunmow, and has been supported by the police.

Criticisms have been raised about whether this would breach ­youngsters’ privacy, but Mr Knight believes it will allow the schools to become an “integral part of the community”.

He said: “If my pupils do something stupid over the weekend – we do not have a lot of that in the town and long may that continue – but, if they did, I would want to know about it first thing on Monday morning.

“If it is something that has happened relating to school we can look at it, or if it is anti-social ­behaviour, such as graffiti, I could call the police or a community group to come in and explain the ­consequences of their actions and the impact it will have.”

Both John Hartley, head at Saffron Walden County High (SWCH) and Gordon Farquhar, head at Joyce Frankland Academy, in Newport, were in favour of the concept.

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Mr Hartley said: “It is hugely important that we continue to work closely with the police, and we would very much appreciate being given information as early as possible about young people being involved with the police.”

Mr Farquhar said: “This would be brilliant and I would encourage it. We are very fortunate in the area that we live that youth offending is not high but we should not rest on those laurels.

“The schools in this area have very positive relationships with the kids and we can use this positive ­relationship to help support the community.”

Sgt Chris Sharp, of the Uttlesford Neighbourhood Policing Team, welcomed the idea and said it was something the police could explore.

He said: “If we could foster ­something like this, that could be very useful in helping us to teach the youths to realise the error of their ways.

“The difficulty we have is that we do have to involve the parents and, in some cases, they may raise ­objections to this being reported to the school.

“They may feel it doesn’t need to be raised because it did not happen in school time and we are already ­ dealing with it.”

Not everybody is keen on the idea. An Uttlesford parent, who did not wished to be named, said: “I do not think it is the ­headteacher’s job to reprimand the children – it should be left to the police and the parents.”

Uttlesford district councillor, Graham Barker, is worried the move could breach pupils’ privacy.

He said: “Children and their family do have a certain ­protection of confidentiality and it would be something I think the parents should be asked about.

“It raises the question of what is bad behaviour and what is breaking the law? If a child is stopped by the police but what he or she has been stopped for has not been deemed criminal in the eyes of the officer, then should the school be told about it?”