Third of English Schools Say Pupils Are Groomed by Criminal Drug Gangs

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: A children's play area sits next to terraced homes in the Gorton area of Manchester on December 04, 2018 in Manchester, England. A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has claimed that over four million children are now living in poverty in the UK. The …
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Criminal gangs have swept through so much of the educational system in England that staff at one-third of the country’s secondary schools believe gangs have groomed pupils, a report has found.

A poll of teachers at almost 1,300 English schools found that drug dealers and other criminal gangs are controlling pupils as young as eight, with the rot spreading throughout the country and not just limited to urban areas.

According to an analysis conducted by The Times — which covered schools with approximately 500,000 pupils — over 60 per cent of secondary schools have been forced to search pupils with metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs. Children have increasingly been found to be bringing weapons to school, including hammers, knuckle dusters, lasers, and so-called zombie knives.

The survey, which was conducted before the Chinese coronavirus lockdown, found that during the 2018/19 academic year, some 24 per cent of schools referred children to the police or social services out of fear that they were involved in criminal gangs.

The poll also found that 33 per cent of secondary schools believe children in their care are involved with criminal gangs, with two per cent of primary schools reporting similar activity.

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said that the report demonstrates that the government needs to be more proactive in tackling the scourge in schools.

“This investigation shows how criminal gangs operating in England are ruthless organisations, using sophisticated grooming to lure children in and then using violence to keep them compliant,” Longfield said.

“Thousands of children in towns and cities across England are at real risk, and the same attention must be paid to protecting them as to other major threats to children. The government must ensure resources are allocated to stop children becoming involved in gangs,” she added.

The children’s commissioner said that the latest study from the government found that 27,000 children were believed to be members of criminal gangs, but warned that the figure will likely be far higher now.

The problem is likely to have been exacerbated by the prolonged lockdown in which pupils were out of school for months, increasing the time in which gangs can prey upon them.

In June, the Children’s Society charity said that so-called county lines drug dealers were increasingly using children to transport drugs during the lockdown, often dressing them up in key worker and food delivery worker uniforms to further avoid attention.

The chairman of the education committee, Robert Halfon MP, called for a joint initiative between the ministers FOR home affairs, culture, and education to confront the issue, with more investment in police outreach.

“If you had police cadets or army cadets in schools, if you invested in youth activities in the evenings, if you clearly identified these troubled families, you could clearly make a difference,” Halfon said.

Keisha McLeod, the mother of a pupil in London who was fatally shot in the head in 2017, said that schools are overlooking vulnerable children, such as her son, CJ Davis, who was diagnosed with ADHD.

“I believe my child would still be alive if schools understood how these gangs work. Vulnerable children who struggle in class become problem children and teachers are already overwhelmed. That’s where the criminals see opportunities,” she said.

“CJ wanted to learn, but he was pushed out of mainstream education. I believe he was pushed into an environment that led to his demise,” she lamented.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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