Question Beth Education

To what extent is there an issue with knives in UK schools?

To what extent is there an issue with knives and similar weapons in UK schools?

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Answer Expert #26888

The 2016 inquiry in to the knife murder of 16-year-old Bailey Gwynne on school grounds concluded that the killing was an avoidable occurrence, and that as a consequence, schools should have greater powers available to them to stop and search learners suspected of carrying weapons (BBC, 2016). Though Gwynne’s death was an isolated event, there nevertheless persists an accumulation of data indicating that the carrying of edged weapons is prevalent in secondary schools in particular; surveys indicate that almost 30% of secondary age children claim to routinely have a knife with them in school (KnifeCrime.Org, 2016). Violence towards other pupils as well as to teachers is widely understood to be rising, and of increasing concern to educationalists, parents, and to trades unions (Williams, 2016). Responses are varied; there is a need for greater training of teachers and other school personnel in defusing potentially-violent situations, as well as in earlier diagnosis and referral of oppositional and defiant behaviours which may signal an underlying mental health condition and/or substance abuse-related issue (NHS Choices, 2013). At one extreme, the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 gives schools powers to use electronic wands and similar devices to screen for weapons, though schools’ management may be understandably reluctant to employ such devices for reasons of negative publicity, the giving of unintended impressions to pupils and staff, and cost implications. Education itself is a strategy, and there are multiple knife crime reduction policies being applied across the UK (KnifeCrime.Org, 2016). Furthermore, educational interventions are seen in academic circles as being the most effective in reducing the incidence of knife crime; contextualised measures within schools would appear to be the most productive way to combat this issue, backed up with robust policing and sentencing to stigmatise offenders (University of Glasgow, 2014).


BBC (2016) Bailey Gwynne death: Pupil stabbing death was ‘avoidable’. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
KnifeCrimes.Org (2016) Knife incidents, school children knives, school knife crimes. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
NHS Choices (2014) New guidelines on child antisocial behaviour. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
Violent Crime Reduction Act2006, c. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
University of Glasgow (2014) Education key to reducing violent knife crime. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
Williams, S. (2016) ‘He ran at me with an axe’: teachers on facing violence in schools. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).