Nine-year-old children at risk of getting trapped in a life of violence and knife crime are being targeted in a radical project to tackle gang culture in Glasgow primary schools.
Pupils identified as being “on the cusp of gangs” will be given advice on staying out of trouble in a scheme influenced by the US-based Mentors in Violence Prevention project, which encourages young people to be leaders in their communities.
Organisers hope the new project, A Community in Motion (ACIM), will eventually be rolled out to all 138 Glasgow primaries and reach tens of thousands of children.
“We felt that violence was washing over our children,” said Nancy Clunie, headteacher of Dalmarnock Primary, one of the four schools involved in the initial phases of the project.
“They were becoming immune to violence. Perhaps not taking part, but if they’d seen something it would not have the shock value you’d expect – and by secondary school they might be taking part.”
The schools will work with the national Violence Reduction Unit. It has helped to dramatically reduce violent crime in Scotland by treating it “like a disease” to be “inoculated” against before it happens.
Director Karyn McCluskey said this was the first time that children so young had been targeted in the UK. She was due to highlight the approach at a Home Office event this week, expected to be attended by home secretary Theresa May and police chiefs.
ACIM was inspired by conversations between headteachers Louise Hamilton, of St Anne’s Primary, and Geraldine Parkinson of St Thomas’ Primary. Both expressed concern that schemes to counter gang culture only started for children at the age of 11 or 12.
But Ms Parkinson said that before that age children were already becoming "more socially aware and image-conscious, and relationships become a bit more tense and fraught”.