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Head's plea: 'I’m scared stabbing is being normalised'

Fear and frustration at one school in an area plagued by knife crime - as head calls emergency meeting for parents

Headteacher Gerry Robinson talks to parents about knife crime

Fear and frustration at one school in an area plagued by knife crime - as head calls emergency meeting for parents

There is a growing sense of fear and urgency among the hundreds of parents sitting in the hall at Woodside High School, in Wood Green, north London. 

More than 200 people are here, some of them have babies, toddlers and primary-aged children with them.

Teachers and older pupils have also joined the meeting, which has been called in the wake of the latest knife attack – on a 19-year-old man who was stabbed to death in front of children in a hair salon on the local high street. 


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It's the latest in 12 stabbings in the local community in just over a year. And there's been a drive-by shooting, too – in which a 17-year-old girl was killed.

The danger of knife crime

Headteacher Gerry Robinson (pictured) is on stage saying she is proud that her school is talking about the issue of gangs and knife crime.

“It requires an element of bravery to say we need to talk about this as a community," she says.

"It’s not something we can hide away from. There are many, many schools which sweep things under the carpet, but we’re not afraid to say this is affecting our children."

Talking of the hair salon incident, she says: “What surprised me was the lack of reaction to it. People were not as shocked as they would have been about this sort of thing last year, and that scared me because it seemed to suggest that people weren’t thinking ‘this isn’t normal' – but that 'it’s just something which happens where we live'.”

Since Ms Robinson took over as head last year, the school has introduced more than 70 after-school and lunch-time activities, which she says are helping to divert pupils away from gang culture and knife crime. There is no knife crime in school and the last time a pupil was caught with a knife on the premises was four years ago, she says.

woodside

There are many who might say she's fighting a losing battle when she asks the parents to ban their kids from having Snapchat and Instagram on their phones, although she can back up her argument very well.

“We know from many of the events that have happened recently that lots of things start on Snapchat or on Instagram or via WhatsApp group chats," she says.

"Communication starts then somebody says something and then somebody’s out to get someone.

Gang culture and social media

“We tell pupils that they shouldn’t be using social media to insult other people or to say things that they would never, ever dream of saying to someone’s face. But so often when something’s happened, we look at someone’s phone and that’s exactly what has happened.

“The actual legal age for using Instagram and Snapchat is 13, and I would advise against all students using them anyway, but absolutely nobody in Year 7 should have these apps on their phones and if you’re a parent or carer, and you know your child has these apps then please delete them.

"I cannot explain to you enough the issues caused by pupils accessing Snapchat and Instagram.”

“Does your child actually need a smartphone – on which they can access porn, and things related to gangs and drugs and where they can post things on Snapchat and Instagram and via WhatsApp? Why does your child need that? If it’s all about safety, all they need is a 'brick' phone for £10.”  

The meeting also heard from Met Police officer PC Peter Wilson that gangs are recruiting SEND pupils to sell drugs "across county lines".

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, joined a panel of local police and a councillor for a Q and A session at the meeting, and was the focus of a scared and angry parent, attending with his teenage daughter. He was almost shouting into the microphone when he said: “We’re seeing children stabbed and shot on a regular basis in this area."

A mother told the meeting: “I fear for my young ones every day.” While another parent asked everyone at the meeting to join hands, and someone from a local church said there were activities for young people there that might keep them off the streets.

It seemed like a community struggling to know which way to turn.   

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