Are police in schools a good thing?

I’ve raised questions this week about the deployment and effectiveness of police officers in schools.

I’ve been asking the Mayor about the number of Safer Schools Officers (SSOs) in borough schools, and have been unable to find a link between these figures and any reduction locally in youth offending.

The Mayor suggested last week during People’s Question Time (hear his comments at 1h32m) that he would expand the use of SSOs and ‘make sure every school in London has a police officer linked with that school’.

Analysis of figures provided by the Mayor in response to my questions show that the rate each borough currently uses these officers varies widely – read my full briefing here, and see the map included.

Islington, for example, has one SSO available for every state-funded school in the borough, but in other areas many schools have no SSO attached and the rate of deployment is as low as 0.17 officers per school. When compared with changes in rates of youth offending since 2011 the data show no significant relationship with the use of SSOs.

The good news is that youth offences are down over the past four years, but the data I have obtained shows Safer Schools Officers are scattered inconsistently across London and the number deployed seems to bear no relation to local rates of youth offending.

The Mayor has said he wants police officers in every school – I am worried this will use up resources when there is no convincing evidence they have a genuine effect on youth offending.

Before London commits to this increase, we should think carefully whether police officers are the best option for talking to young people about issues that may lead to crime, and whether there are more effective ways of keeping rates of youth offending down, such as funding youth workers and services.”

Safer Schools Officers were launched nationally in 2002, with guidance stating they were aimed at prevention, with the goals of the programme including to ‘reduce victimisation, criminality and anti-social behaviour within the school and its community’ and to achieve ‘early identification, support and challenge of pupils at risk of offending’.