Shocking Truth About Welsh Schools
Police are called into Welsh schools at least 16 times every day in term time to deal with reported crimes, we can reveal. And in the past year, they have included serious allegations of rape, indecent assault, grievous bodily harm and possession of weapons and drugs.
Figures released to Wales on Sunday under the Freedom of Information Act showed cops went to schools on at least 3,169 occasions last year.
The true figure will be higher, possibly double the number, because two forces refused to provide figures, namely South Wales Police, the largest in the country and Gwent.
North Wales Police recorded a total of 2,384 reports of crimes in schools in their area last year, with the most common being criminal damage, burglary and theft.
The smaller Dyfed-Powys Police recorded 785 occasions they went into schools. They broke the numbers down crime by crime, revealing that last year they had to deal with reports of six rapes, four indecent assaults, eight incidents of GBH, 29 of cannabis possession, 76 of actual bodily harm and 46 assaults.
Along with these, they had countless reports of other crimes, including harassment, thefts and robberies.
The figures are revealed as the Welsh Assembly’s National Behaviour and Attendance Review, which is due to report in autumn, is examining where improvements can be made once Wales receives law-making powers later this year.
It is looking at ‘best practice’ in local education authorities across the country to see what could be rolled out nationwide.
Education Minister Jane Davidson said she was “firmly committed to promoting discipline and order in schools”.
She said: “I recognise the difficulties faced by headteachers and other staff when dealing with disruptive pupils.
“All children should have the chance to study free from disruption and teachers need the tools to help them minimise disruption where it occurs.
“Local education authorities must give details of the support, advice and resources they will provide to schools to assist them in promoting positive behaviour and also support they will provide for children with behavioural difficulties, within or outside schools.”
Guidelines were already in place to deal with bad behaviour including, as a last resort, expelling troublemakers, she added.
“The reasons given for permanent exclusions clearly indicate that headteachers are using this sanction to tackle serious disciplinary issues such as threatening or dangerous behaviour,” she said.
Rhys Williams, of teachers’ union NUT Cymru, said while he agreed the figures were “quite large” the fact schools were prepared to report matters to the police was a sign of their “self-confidence”.
He said: “Our advice to schools is certainly when any offence occurs which outside the school would be considered a criminal offence, generally speaking, we believe the police should be called.
“I think it informs the person who has committed the offence and the school generally that this sort of thing is not tolerated on school premises.
“When a school approaches the police it shows a certain self-confidence in the school.
“It’s sad it’s such a high number, but it does show there’s a serious problem in society at large. While the number is quite large, it’s tiny compared with the number of offences committed in society.
“I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say schools very often are oases of calm in a turbulent society. Society has better schools than it deserves.”
In the event of lesser crimes, it might be better to deal with it internally, he added.
“Suppose a theft is identified and it’s very clear who’s the perpetrator, they can be punished within the framework of the school,” he said.
Dyfed-Powys Police were the only police force prepared to give a breakdown of crimes reported last year, school by school and crime by crimes. Some of the reported incidents include:
Sir Thomas Picton School, Haverfordwest (18 reported incidents): ABH (2), Assault (1), Theft (12), Criminal damage (2), Criminal damage to a vehicle (1)
A spokesman for Pembrokeshire Council said: “It would most unfair to infer from the figures supplied by the Dyfed-Powys Police that there is a problem relating specifically to Sir Thomas Picton School.
“For instance the school shares a campus with a leisure centre and when police attend incidents at the centre, the location is logged in police records as Sir Thomas Picton School. Other incidents referred to occurred out of school time.”
Penglais Comprehensive School, Aberystwyth (18 reported incidents): Rape (1), Assault (2), Handling stolen goods (1), Possession of a weapon (1), Theft (5), Burglary (5), Criminal damage (3)
Cardigan Secondary School (16 reported incidents): GBH (2), Cannabis possession (2), Harassment (1), Theft from a person (1), Theft (6), Criminal damage (2), Criminal damage to a vehicle (1), Burglary (1)
Referring to the above two schools, Richard Emlyn Thomas, cabinet member with responsibility for education at Ceredigion Council, said: “I’m rather surprised. It is too high but without knowing more I can’t say anything else”.
Brecon High School (14 reported incidents): Sexual offences (1), ABH (1), Assault (1), Cannabis possession (1), Criminal damage (6), Theft (4)
Newtown High School (13 reported incidents): Sexual assault (1), ABH (2), Assault (2), Affray (1), Theft (2), Arson (1), Harassment (1), Theft of a vehicle (1), Burglary (1), Criminal damage (1).
Referring to the above two schools, a spokesman for Powys Council said: “The vast majority of these incidents have happened outside of school hours and are not linked to the schools themselves. Incidents of a serious nature are dealt with by the schools in a professional manner.”
Ysgol Glan-y-Mor, Burry Port, Carmarthenshire (12 reported incidents): Indecent assault of a child under 13 (1), Indecent assault of a child over 13 (1), ABH (4), Cannabis possession (1), Theft (2), Criminal damage (2), Other (1)
The school’s headteacher failed to return our calls.