Department for Education figures for the last academic year show that 1,000 pupils are suspended each day for violence in schools. Many of these attacks were against teachers and staff.
Although violence in inner-city schools in the last decade has had a high profile, such incidents are no longer are limited to large cities. As SecEd reported earlier this year, violence against staff in Wales has increased exponentially, rising by over a third in the last three years. In Devon and Cornwall there were more than 400 physical and verbal attacks on teachers last year.
Levels of disruption, aggression and violence contribute to an atmosphere in which it is hard for teachers to teach effectively, but also one in which it can be impossible for pupils to learn.
The rise in violent behaviour in classrooms is mirrored by the amount of youth violence on the street. Youth violence accounted for up to 60 per cent of all reported violence in England and Wales according to Home Office figures, with violent crime by young people rising 40 per cent in the last three years. This includes a 50 per cent rise in violence among girls.
So what is being done to combat this growing trend? Following the street violence seen in the 2011 summer riots, the Home Office released a report called Ending Gang and Youth Violence. It emphasised the importance of early intervention and prevention of youth violence through effective school material.
Stand Against Violence (SAV) is dedicated to the prevention of youth violence and works with teachers in schools to help students understand the consequences of violent behaviour – not just on victims and their families but also on themselves.
The Somerset charity was set up in 2005 by Adam Fouracre following the murder of his brother, Lloyd, in an unprovoked violent street attack just one day before his 18th birthday. Adam is a firm believer in the grass-roots approach – catch them young and instil a sense of moral responsibility, or at least a grasp on the harsh reality of violence.
The charity’s activities are focused on developing relationships with schools and youth organisations, providing teaching resources, from lesson plans to DVD material, that will equip students to deal with situations and avoid potential incidents.
Central to all the material is a film based on the re-enactment of Lloyd’s murder. By using a real-life violent situation and empathy-inducing materials, Adam finds the message is more effective because students become emotionally engaged.
Mark Trusson, principal at Taunton Academy, said: “Adam and his team communicate in an unapologetically direct style, yet in such a way that demonstrates how lives are changed by violent acts.”
With the pressure increasing on schools to address the topic of violence, Adam has introduced a series of peer education workshops to run within the existing PSHE curriculum. Employing former PSHE teacher, Carly Anderson, the charity trained a number of volunteer youth educators and began a pilot scheme earlier this summer.
Peer education is based on the reality that many people make changes not only based on what they know, but on the opinions and actions of their close, trusted peers.
Adam explained: “It is common knowledge that most young people relate best to people their own age and that is why we have chosen to train the younger age bracket to fulfil our peer educator roles.”
Carly works with schools to tailor the workshops, initially setting up meetings to determine the requirements in terms of focus, age groups, numbers and the length of the session. Typical subjects include underage drinking, bullying, personal safety and choosing friends. The sessions are not free but the charity tries to keep costs to a minimum and all funds are re-invested in the development of the charity’s resources.
One of the first schools to participate was Taunton-based Heathfield Community School. Kim Woodward, citizenship and PSHE co-ordinator, worked with SAV to host a half-day workshop for 240 year 9 students based on personal safety.
The session started with the film portraying Lloyd’s attack and a general discussion ensued based on the consequences and effects of people’s actions. The students were then split into groups to begin more interactive sessions, including a newsroom group that worked on the portrayal of teenagers in the media and their involvement with violence and another group which created screen-printed bags and badges with messages focused on reducing violence among young people.
Kim said: “Dealing with an actual situation made the experience all the more credible in the students’ eyes, while the age of the peer educators made a real difference to the students.”
Further informationTo find out more, visit www.sav-ed.co.uk or contact Adam directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Sanders works with Stand Against Violence.
CAPTION: Taking a stand: Students from Heathfield Community School tackle issues of violence during their SAV workshop