School nurses at war with students’ knives

Image copyright FAIR CHANCE ALERT Image caption Leon Crossley, 26, says that having a knife in his classroom may have been ‘thinking ahead’ When Leon Crossley was 14, he had a non-firearm phobia so…

School nurses at war with students' knives

Image copyright FAIR CHANCE ALERT Image caption Leon Crossley, 26, says that having a knife in his classroom may have been ‘thinking ahead’

When Leon Crossley was 14, he had a non-firearm phobia so bad it gave him claustrophobia.

In one situation, he felt anxious walking through a supermarket after hearing children discussing knives, and tried to avoid situations where he might come into contact with potential weapons.

Four years later, the 26-year-old head boy at Paulsgrove Secondary in the East Midlands now finds himself at the forefront of a growing threat to nurses.

He knows that having a knife in his classroom was purely “thinking ahead” – he carries one in a drawer in his bedroom.

“In hindsight, having a knife was the best thing I could have done if this was going to happen,” he said.

Mr Crossley’s experience highlights the increasing number of school nurses in England who are being faced with regular encounters with students, some from troubled backgrounds, carrying and using knives.

It is a position that NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has warned could lead to the end of healthcare as we know it.

Image copyright FAIR CHANCE ALERT Image caption Teigen Perlet, from Children’s Association, said that bringing knives to school can have a “direct negative impact” on children’s futures

In a speech to MPs in March, he said the situation was extremely worrying and linked it to a rise in violence.

In Nottinghamshire, there were more than 70 incidents of knife possession and violence at schools in the 12 months up to the end of October last year, according to the county’s executive board.

Teigen Perlet, from the Children’s Association, said she believed those figures could be underestimated and thought nurses in classrooms were being unduly “militarised”.

“A lot of nurses are frustrated that they’re being told to act like soldiers,” she told the BBC.

“But if a student has a knife, you’re just trying to do the best for the kid, to keep them safe.”

Image copyright FAIR CHANCE ALERT Image caption NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has warned that having a knife in a classroom could lead to the end of healthcare as we know it

In 2016, the Home Office issued a leaflet on preventing knife crime – but it was widely criticised because it did not explain the difference between a knife and a penknife, nor described how much risk it posed to the public.

Emma Williams, a clinical social worker at Castle Hill Nurses Centre in Birmingham, said her care team had faced an unusual challenge.

“There are 11,000 pupils in school in Birmingham. How can you find that many students who will look after the knife?”

When the school was a closed school, the nurses would simply become teachers and now there are “more pupils on the chopping block” than before, she said.

Image copyright FAIR CHANCE ALERT Image caption Many NHS and other professionals fear arming nurses with tasers would lead to a “arms race”

“But we don’t want to put them in a position where we want to teach them how to be teachers because that will actually make it more likely that the need for classroom care will come up.”

Hospitals usually respond to large outbreaks of violence by appointing armed guards – but Ms Williams said this should not be a option for school nurses.

“You can’t control what the other end of the gun will be. I don’t think you should send nurses into schools with tasers.”

She said arming nurses would lead to a “arms race”, but stressed that the role as a caregiver was different.

“We don’t have weapons with us,” she said. “It’s quite easy to get around if you take a lesson off 999.”

One of the nurses who responds to calls from school children is Miranda Moir-Sidelsburg.

“We’d never want to see our patients unsafe,” she said.

“We are as much victims as patients.”

NHS England has been approached for comment.

Image copyright FAIR CHANCE ALERT Image caption The Home Office launched a leaflet aimed at school nurses in 2016, but it did not provide any advice on what to do if a child carries a knife

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