An arresting presence in the classroom

Click to follow
The Independent Online

One of the first schools to have a police officer stationed on site was George Green, a 1,300-pupil comprehensive on the Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets, east London.

PC Duncan Evans became the first police officer in east London to work from an office in a school. He dealt with a range of issues and was adamant his presence helped improve relationships with the pupils – in an area which had been riven by rival gang warfare.

After the project had been going for a year, he had made 26 arrests – almost all for offences committed outside the school – and, more importantly, had helped encourage pupils to come forward and give evidence as witnesses to incidents they had seen.

"The attitude towards the police has definitely changed," he said. "The pupils can talk to me about things like drugs and sentencing." His role also led to encouraging pupils to take part in restorative justice schemes, where pupils were brought together with their victims to talk about what had happened.

He also tackled child protection cases. In a case where evidence of abuse emerged, collaboration between the school, the police and social services led to a child being removed from an unsafe environment within hours – when the problem may not have emerged if pupils had felt unable to talk to him.

The school also introduced a scheme whereby members of two rival gangs were taken on retreat to a Big Brother-style house in Northern Ireland from which they could not escape and had to talk to each other.

They were given talks by members of the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities who explained in graphic detail what being part of two warring communities in Northern Ireland meant.

It was a gamble, admitted the school's headteacher, Kenny Fredericks, but it worked. In the end, members of the two rival gangs became friends and the gang warfare ceased.