I’ve been on INSET this week. On Wednesday, Nigel (the pastoral deputy) and I learnt about methods of searching and screening for weapons in schools. Working on the outskirts of a major city means that we haven’t been able to avoid the horrors of rising teenage crime.

One incident last term involved a students getting cut by a ‘blade’. We don’t know what sort of blade and we haven’t found the culprit. That and the incident involving Brian meant that we ‘tooled up’ and instigated weapon sweeps with hand-held metal detectors. However, it didn’t occur to me until we were actually being trained that nobody at school would have known quite where we stood legally had we detected metal and been faced with a student who refused to reveal what had set things off.

I know from initial feedback that we probably should have conducted the screenings more privately and certainly should only have had staff of the same gender as the pupils conducting the screenings but I now feel on safe ground concerning the legality of our policies and procedures.

First impressions

I don’t, however, feel safe with regards to the world we’re living in or the fact that my teaching career has led to the place I was in on Wednesday.

I arrived in plenty of time and was faced with two trainers who were former police inspectors (even if they hadn’t explained this in their introduction, there was just something about their manner that gave them away). They had both spent time in armed-response and counter-terrorist divisions.

The two participants opposite me were two men with shaved heads, tattoos and mannerisms that made me feel uncomfortable sitting across from them in broad daylight with two former policemen in the room; My first impressions where that I would not have wanted to meet them under any other circumstances.

The gloves

There were sets of white, cloth gloves laid out alongside the obligatory hotel INSET notepads, pens and water. Mine were swapped for a set with a blue line (smaller for ladies’ hands!).

Previously I’d joked at work about latex gloves, turns out the joke was on me.  These were cut-resistant gloves as sometimes used by surgeons and it was necessary to wear them before we could handle the hardware that the trainers had brought in. It also turns out that first impressions can be misleading. Nigel and I were the only school teachers there, everybody else worked in a college and was linked to site security and/or student services. Within half an hour I felt completely at ease with everybody and my initial misgivings had eased somewhat.

Role-play

I won’t go into details of the role-plays but I do recommend the course (and will give details if requested). I have my cascading action plan ready and know:

  • All members of the middle leadership team will be getting training on how to search students
  • Which items of clothing I can require a student to remove
  • From which Act of Parliament I get the authority to search a students bag and locker
  • Not to take anything at face value (I’ve seen cuddly toy weapons, coin-knives, mobile phone taser guns, necklace-knives and so much more)
  • How to search at the waistline and confirm that it’s only a belt buckle setting the metal detector off without causing offence
  • How to search a female student’s bosom (I think it’s more than enough if I share my kinaesthetic aide-memoire with you –palms flat, start to pray, reverse cup and round, I leave the rest to your imagination)

I found the whole experience scarily upsetting. Nigel and I spent time trying to work out how it was possible that we had to be doing this as teachers.

Blame culture

As we came home on the train my thoughts revolved around when things had got this bad and who was to blame. It’s all to easy to blame parents, likely we could also try to blame the schools, but it would probably be best if we stopped worrying about who to blame and actually think about what we could do to counter the trend.  I don’t think that a compulsory Citizenship curriculum is going to be enough and I’m also worried that neither government, teachers or parents are fully equipped to put effective measures in place.

When I think about the responsibilities we have in loco parentis, the skateboards and the fact that my school can’t even get a fire-drill right I wonder if it isn’t time to ask for danger money.Watch our presentation for cascading our learning to colleagues – it’s multiple choice full of hyperlinks – you click what you think is the correct answer, it will either take you to an explanation of why it’s correct – click on the question to get to the next question or it will take you to the ‘you are wrong’ screen and you can choose the question to return to.  Have fun!

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