Four-year-old among 1,383 children caught with weapons at school

Children as young as four are among thousands of pupils who were caught bringing weapons into school, an investigation has found.

Police have seized knives, blades and other sharp objects from youngsters, while a 14-year-old was caught carrying a sword.

Other weapons include knuckle dusters, a hammer, and a Taser, in data obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

The information was gathered from 29 police forces in England and Wales.

Data showed there were 1,072 incidents in the last financial year, up from 831 in the previous 12 months.

Between April and August 2019, there were a further 311 incidents.

Here's what the figures show:

Figures from police forces in England and Wales show the age of people found with weapons in schools since April 2017 Credit: PA

School leaders said the figures were "grim but unsurprising", while police chiefs warned violence among young people was a growing problem.

The figures are expected to be much higher than the Freedom of Information requests show, considering the largest police force in the country, the Metropolitan Police, provided no data.

Knives, including lock-knives, pen knives and craft knives, were involved in 1,260 incidents across between April 2017 and summer 2019 – more than half of the incidents reported overall.

The incident involving a four-year-old was recorded in Dyfed Powys, who was said to be in possession of an unidentified weapon. No more details about the weapon were identified.

A zombie knife – such as the one above – was among the items found at schools since April 2017 Credit: Avon and Somerset Police/PA

'The situation is getting worse'

Lucy Martindale, a youth worker from south London who lost 11 family and friends to murder, gun and knife crime during a seven-year period, said: “The situation is getting worse, even just this year.

“Some young people I speak to say before they leave the house – where most people check they have picked up their keys and wallet or purse – they check they have their knives with them.

“There needs to be more collaborative action – not just government, but the community as a whole, parents, police, coming together and trying to come up with an answer.”

Lucy Martindale, fourth from right, with fellow anti-knife crime protesters in London in May Credit: Ryan Hooper/PA

Authorities call on more to be done to tackle knife crime

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for children and young people, said while the incidents are rare, police are seeing a number of incidents on school premises involving weapons.

She said: "Police involvement in schools, whether it be officers delivering talks and interactive sessions or based in schools themselves as part of the Safer Schools Partnership, helps us to educate young people and explain why carrying a weapon is never the right choice.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said cuts to public services were fuelling the rise of young people carrying weapons.

He added gangs were "filling this vacuum" and were "grooming" people to deal drugs and carry weapons.

Mr Barton said: "Schools are doing their best to tackle these problems, but they cannot possibly solve this issue on their own. They need more back-up in the form of well-resourced community support services and more investment in policing.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Schools already work in partnership with the police and local authorities to prevent pupils from coming to harm and to ensure they don’t cause harm to others.

"The problem for everyone concerned is that they are all under-resourced and over-stretched.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Schools should be safe and disciplined environments for both pupils and teachers.

“We recently announced a £10 million investment to establish behaviour hubs so that schools with a track record of effectively managing pupils’ behaviour can share what works with schools that need it.

“We have strengthened teachers’ powers so they can take action if they suspect a pupil has brought a prohibited item, including knives, into schools.”

Police forces with age-specific data showed fewer than 100 incidents involved people over 18.