Updated: May 10, 2019
The announcement that teachers and medical professionals could soon have a legal obligation to act if they spot warning signs of violent criminal behaviour has caused alarm amongst some.
There are many challenges already facing teachers and pastoral staff in schools. Another one that they face is how to spot these signs in the first place. As ‘yet another’ knife crime with images of devastated families dominate the news, we look for answers, we look for solutions.
Many have argued that teachers and medical professionals already act on warning signs because it is the ‘right thing to do’ and they have a safeguarding responsibility to do so.
Some are questioning the necessity of committing this to legal statute. Some are probably wondering how they are actually meant to do this along with the other demands that they face on a daily basis.
More often than not, ‘signs’ are only easy to identify when they become actions. These actions are usually violent and at this stage the child is probably already entrenched in the criminal justice system when the opportunities for early intervention are lost.
Intervention through effective mentoring in schools and in communities is the only sustainable option. People working with children should be trained to identify when a child is ‘potentially’ vulnerable to being ‘groomed’ into gang membership or becoming involved in violent behaviour.
This can be and should be done as early as year 6 (the last year of primary school). The earlier the intervention the more effective it is likely to be.