Machetes, hammers, metal bars and a gun are among items either recovered in colleges or used in student-on-student assaults, gang attacks or violent incidents against staff, according to a new survey by Unison.
According to the survey, staff and students suffered serious injuries as a result of offensive weapons being brought into colleges.
Unison questioned 845 support staff, including canteen workers, learning support assistants and librarians, in both further education and sixth-form colleges across the UK.
Background: How safe is your college?
Lack of training
Nine in 10 respondents said they had received no training on dealing with teenagers who bring weapons into college – although almost a quarter (23 per cent) felt weapon-related crime was an issue at their place of work, and in some cases a growing concern.
Serious incidents described by survey respondents include gang members armed with hammers chasing a 17-year-old student through a college – requiring support workers to act as human shields between the teenager and his attackers until security and police arrived; a student dying from fatal chest wounds after being stabbed outside college; and armed police being called after a student brought a gun onto campus.
Some staff who responded had themselves been injured by a weapon that had been brought into college, while many others knew colleagues who had been harmed in incidents. One in five respondents (20 per cent) admitted they didn’t feel safe at work.
Unison wants colleges to provide proper training to deal with weapons found on campus, for every member of staff.
College staff 'in harm's way'
Head of education Jon Richards said: “Budget cuts, rising knife crime and the closure of youth centres means college support staff are having to put themselves in harm’s way to ensure the safety of other students.
“It’s no accident that as spending on youth services has dropped, teenage crime levels have rocketed. A joined-up response from police, youth support services and colleges is the only way to turn youngsters away from crime – it shouldn’t fall to college support staff to pick up the pieces.”
Eddie Playfair, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said: “Safety on campus is a paramount concern and the number of violent incidents in and around colleges is low, although even one is too many. Colleges across the country have implemented a range of security measures as well as developing educational responses.
"This work is part of the wider duty to safeguard young people in schools and colleges and is often focused on helping students to identify risks and keep themselves safe beyond the college. The additional staff and training needed to support safety on campus come at a cost and coincides with the college funding freeze, reductions in youth services and police personnel.”