A new public health duty for schools to work alongside other agencies to prevent knife crime and other serious violent offences may form part of Ofsted’s inspection criteria in the future.
In a report detailing the government’s response to consultation on the issue, published this week, the Home Office said a new duty for schools and other bodies to share data with one another to prevent violent crime would be introduced.
Insight: How can schools tackle knife crime?
It was revealed that “specific organisations or authorities” – such as schools, police services, health bodies and youth offending services – will “have a duty to collaborate and plan to prevent and reduce serious violence”, and are likely to be held to account over how they do this through inspections.
In consultation over the new duty, most of the 225 respondents – who work in local government, the voluntary sector, schools or the police – felt schools and other authorities should be held to account over their fulfilment of the duty by inspections, either through “joint thematic inspections” or by “individual inspectorates” through their existing powers.
In the case of schools, the fulfilment of this duty may become part of Ofsted’s inspection criteria.
The Home Office's response to the consultation states: "We will undertake an informal consultation with inspectorates to scope options for an inspection regime."
A spokesperson from Ofsted said: “We agree that schools should be fully involved in local strategies to prevent serious violence and look forward to working with the Home Office as it develops its guidance on the new public health duty to tackle this issue.”
In response to the new duty, a headteachers’ union said schools already identified pupils as vulnerable under their safeguarding responsibilities, yet budget cuts had made this more difficult.
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It appears that the planned new duty over serious violence will require schools and colleges, along with other public bodies, to plan and collaborate together over how they prevent and reduce serious violence in their local area.
“This will be enforced through a new inspection regime. In reality, schools and colleges already look out for signs of children being drawn into anti-social behaviour or criminal behaviour as part of their existing safeguarding duties and report any problems to the relevant authorities. However, local authorities and the police have undergone significant budget cuts in recent years which have hampered their ability to respond to these concerns.
“The new duty must therefore be backed up with sufficient resources to ensure that all agencies have the resources they need not only to plan and collaborate effectively, but to act on concerns so that they are able to provide the support needed to prevent anti-social or criminal behaviour from escalating further.”
“The police, local authorities, schools and colleges are all struggling with extremely tight budgets because of government austerity. While the new duty may be well-intentioned it must be accompanied with the funding and infrastructure needed to make it possible for under-resourced agencies to actually deliver these requirements.”
Some respondents to the consultation also raised concerns that a multi-agency approach to combating knife crime was too similar to responsibilities set out under the Prevent anti-terrorism duty.