New Schools Officers are supporting Kent’s young people
Main article content
School pupils are receiving additional support on issues including bullying, drugs and online exploitation following the start of a new Kent Police initiative.
The first new recruits of a dedicated team of Schools Officers visited classrooms for the first time this term, in order to engage with young people and help to address some of the issues that concern them the most. The new initiative, which is believed to be the largest of its kind in the UK, also seeks to equip students with the skills and confidence to keep themselves and others safe at all times.
So far the team consists of 25 officers supporting around 60 secondary schools. Each school has been introduced to its very own officer who will provide a single point of contact for young people, as well as educational professionals, partner agencies, parents and guardians.
It is anticipated that by early next year, most secondary schools, pupil referral units and independent specialist schools in Kent & Medway will each have a dedicated officer who will support students, teachers and parents.
The new team, formed as part of the national uplift programme, will see police officers dedicated to working within these environments and will complement the work of others already undertaking engagement in the educational setting such as PCSO Youth Engagement Officers and Community Safety Teams.
The aim of the new team is to identify and disrupt criminal activity including exploitation, protect vulnerable children, be a positive influence on young people, provide early intervention and overall reduce the fear of crime amongst students.
The newly formed role will cover many areas of policing including; child safety, reducing fear of crime, safeguarding, signposting, intervention, identifying children at risk of exploitation, crime education, promotion of the police service as a career and will ensure a visible presence in secondary schools in Kent.
Over the summer holidays, Schools Officers have been engaging with young people during holiday clubs and youth events. In Maidstone, they visited youngsters at the summer camps at Barracuda’s, Tonbridge and Maplesden Noakes. Their visits were warmly received by the children, parents and staff.
Schools Officers also joined Youth Engagement Officers across Gravesend and Dartford during the school summer holidays to reconnect with young people following the pandemic that saw schools closed for a long duration.
In Maidstone, Schools Officers responded to reports from residents of anti-social behaviour and drug dealing at a local park. Officers engaged with young people at the park, identified the issues and have been working with partner agencies to improve the lighting, for example. They have also been patrolling the area and on one occasion arrested a man for possession of class B drugs.
Superintendent Pete Steenhuis said: ‘Kent Police is very much invested in young people and always looking at ways to enhance the provisions around schools, and other educational settings across the county.
‘The intention is to invest further in educational settings to make sure children feel safe, create a positive experience between young people and law enforcement and detect and prevent harm including exploitation.
‘We want this to have a really positive impact on students and will hopefully build good relationships, which I know will not only aid staff and pupils in schools but also within the wider community.’
Samantha Matthews, Child Centred Policing Manager for Kent Police said: ‘This team represents Kent Police’s commitment to child centred policing.
'The core purpose of the Schools Officers is to work with schools and educational establishments to provide a visible and accessible police presence, working closely with young people and ensuring their voices are heard.
‘The overarching aim long term is to create a respectful and positive culture of how young people and the police interact.’