This advice, developed by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC),  is for school and college staff with responsibility for behaviour management, including designated safeguarding leads (DSLs), their deputies, head teachers and senior leadership teams in schools and colleges in England. The PDF, which contains further information, can be downloaded here.

  • Assault
  • Criminal Damage
  • Cyber Crime
  • Drugs
  • Harassment
  • Sexual offences
  • Theft
  • Weapons

Assault

An act which intentionally or recklessly causes violence to another.

Are there any injuries?

If there are any suspected broken bones or significant injuries then seek medical help first, then call the police on 101.

If no significant injuries are apparent consider:

  • What has happened?
  • Who is involved?
  • Is there any history between the individuals involved?
  • Are there any safeguarding concerns? If YES — Refer to Keeping children safe in education and follow local safeguarding protocols

Are there any aggravating factors?

  • Is there a significant age gap between the individuals involved, ie more than a year apart?
  • Is there any evidence of injuries?
  • Is there evidence of escalating behaviour? Or previous incidents of a similar nature?
  • What is the impact on the victim?
  • What are the victim’s wishes?
  • Are there any hate elements?
  • Is the assault gang-related?
  • Were weapons involved? (see flow chart for the definition of a weapon)

Criminal damage including arson

To destroy or damage property belonging to another either intending to do so or being reckless as to whether damage is caused.

The school of college should be able to deal with most incidents of criminal damage.

What has happened and who is involved? Are there any aggravating factors?

Schools or colleges will need to decide whether to involve the police by establishing:

  • Is the damage of a high value? (What constitutes high value is a professional judgement call for the school)
  • Is there evidence of escalating behaviour? Or previous incidents of a similar nature?
  • Have any threats or violence been used in the course of the damage?
  • What is the impact on the victim?
  • What are the victim’s wishes?
  • Is there a hate element?

Schools or colleges may decide that the presence of aggravating factors requires the police to be involved.

Cybercrime

Cybercrime is criminal activity committed using computers and/or the internet. It can involve malicious attacks on computer software, including:

  • Breaking IT rules
  • Unauthorised access to computers
  • Denial of Service or other computer interference and impairment
  • Acts causing serious damage to or loss of data
  • ‘Hacking’
  • Cheating at online gaming

This guidance has a focus on offences committed by young people rather than external cybercrime and cyber security Further guidance can be found at ncsc.gov.uk.

The school or college should first establish:

  • What has happened?
  • Who is involved?
  • Is this part of a pattern of behaviour?
  • Are there any safeguarding concerns? If YES — Refer to Keeping children safe in education and follow local safeguarding protocols

Drugs

Possession: It is an offence for any person to unlawfully have a controlled drug in their possession.

Supply: It is an offence to either supply, be concerned in the supply, offer to supply or be concerned in making an offer to supply a controlled drug.

The school or college should first establish:

What has happened?

  • Have drugs been found?
  • Who is involved?
  • Are there suspicions of drug dealing?

If drugs are found

  • Is it on school or college premises?
  • Seize the substance — it is legal to possess an illegal substance in order to prevent an offence being committed and then destroy it, or hand it to the police.
  • If the substance needs to be kept pending police collection, then it should be securely stored in the school safe
  • Schools and colleges are allowed to dispose of substances. If this action is taken, a witness must be present and the action recorded.

Causing alarm or distress to another on more than one occasion, which they either know or should have known would amount to harassment of the other.

Harassment can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contact upon a victim in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person.

  • What has happened?
  • Who is involved?
  • What is the nature of previous incidents?
  • Are there any safeguarding concerns? If YES — Refer to Keeping children safe in education and follow local safeguarding protocols

Are there any aggravating factors?

  • Is there evidence of escalating behaviour?
  • Are there any on line elements?
  • Is it sexual harassment? If YES – refer to Sexual harassment guidance
  • Are there any hate elements?
  • What is the impact on the victim?
  • What are the victims’ wishes?

In the case of incidents involving sexual offences, schools and colleges should refer to local safeguarding protocols, alongside Keeping children safe in education and Sexual violence and harassment between children in schools and colleges guidance.

In cases involving youth produced sexual imagery – often called ‘sexting’ – schools and college may refer to the non-statutory UKCCIS sexting in schools and colleges guidance.

Theft

A person is guilty of theft if they dishonestly appropriate property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

Schools and colleges should take steps to establish what has happened and who is involved. The school or college would normally deal with such an incident internally unless there were aggravating factors present.
The following questions will support the school or college in the decision making process.

Are there any aggravating factors?

  • Is the stolen goods of a high value? The definition of high value here is a professional judgment call to be made by the school
  • Is there evidence of escalating behaviour? Or previous incidents of a similar nature?
  • Have any threats or violence been used in the course of the theft?
    What is the impact on the victim?
    What are the victim’s wishes?
    Is there a hate element?

Weapons

An offensive weapon is any article which is made, intended or adapted to cause injury. Offensive weapon can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Those that are made as an offensive weapon (e.g. knuckle- duster, dagger, gun) or adapted (e.g. broken bottle) for use for causing injury to the person; and
  2. Weapons not made or adapted as an offensive weapon (e.g. kitchen knife, spanner, hammer) but intended by the person having in possession of it to cause injury to another

Possession of a weapon, particularly a knife on school or college premises is often an indicator of vulnerabilities for the young person concerned and therefore a multi-agency approach is important, instigated by a police referral. The school or college should not be expected to manage the situation in isolation.

School staff do have the power to search for weapons, using force as is reasonable in the circumstances. It is important that staff do not put themselves at risk.

Offences

Section 139A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 creates the offence of possessing an article with a blade or sharp point or an offensive weapon on school premises.

Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 prohibits the possession in any public place of an offensive weapon without lawful authority or excuse.

Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 prohibits having with you, in a public place any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed, (including a folding pocket knife if the cutting edge of its blade exceeds 7.62cm/3 inches)

139A(1) Any person who has an article to which section 139 of this Act applies with him on school premises shall be guilty of an offence.

139A(2) Any person who has an offensive weapon within the meaning of section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 with him on school premises shall be guilty of an offence.

Defences

139A(3) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) or (2) above to prove that he had good reason or lawful authority for having the article or weapon with him on the premises in question.

139A(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection
(3) above, it shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) or (2) above to prove that he had the article or weapon in question with him:-
(a) For use at work, (b) for educational purposes, (c) for religious reasons, or (d) as part of any national costume.

BB guns (plastic pellet guns)

The possession of these types of guns under legislation is not an offence as they are deemed to be toys. However, if from a school or college’s perspective they breach school rules, they could be seized and retained under the Education Act.

If an item is found which is suspected to be a gun, and it cannot be ascertained whether it is a genuine firearm or a BB gun, it should always be treated as a firearm and the police called to make that decision.

Possession of these items becomes an offence when a person is misled into believing they are genuine firearms in order to provoke fear; the BB gun may then be classed as an imitation firearm. Circumstances giving rise to this belief may include use:

  1. in connection with a robbery
  2. To threaten someone
  3. As a weapon to assault someone, e.g. pellet injures

Contacting the police

The presumption would be to contact the police unless in exceptional circumstances where there is a reasonable explanation or set of circumstance where it is obvious that a weapon or prohibited article has been brought into school or college as a genuine mistake.

The weapon should be seized and stored securely by the school.

  • Head teachers and staff authorised by them have the power to search students for offensive weapons, with their consent. They also have statutory power to search pupils or their possessions, without consent, where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that the pupil may have an offensive weapon. Further information can be found here

Aggravating factors

Therefore as the police will be involved in most situations where a weapon is involved, the full circumstances relating to the incident will be investigated.