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One in five schools has its own PC

But the Government now wants them all to have one to help boost behaviour and attendance

But the Government now wants them all to have one to help boost behaviour and attendance

Figures released this week show a dramatic rise in the number of police linked to schools as experts prepare guidance on the relationship between teachers and law enforcers.

One in five schools now has its own officer and more look set to join the trend.

Some 5,000 primaries and secondaries have signed up to Safer School Partnerships, designed to cut crime and anti-social behaviour. Better communication between teachers and police has been shown to help problems with behaviour, attendance and truancy.

School staff are now giving their views on the project, led by the Youth Justice Board at conferences around the country. Their feedback will be used to compile new guidance on Safer School Partnerships, to be published in the spring.

The number of schools involved has been unknown until now, partly because there are so many types of partnership, and the board keeps no record of how many of the 5,000 are primaries.

Safer School Partnerships were set up in 2002. Initially, 100 schools took part. Now the Government wants a police officer working in each of England's 25,000 schools, as set out in the Youth Crime Action Plan, which was published last summer.

Drayton School in Banbury, Oxfordshire, was one of the first to get involved. Graham Robb, a former headteacher is now a director of the Youth Justice Board and is writing the official guidance.

"We were able to help the local youth offending teams and other agencies involved in crime - it really does help communication," he said. "I know of another school in east London where it's helped teachers know which pupils are in youth offending programmes."

Critics of the partnerships say they lead to children being criminalised for trivial incidents and that there have been examples of pupils being heavy-handedly marched to police stations in handcuffs.

But advocates say they allow pupils to become more familiar with police, and that it helps to promote better relationships.

Partnerships can work in various ways, but most involve an officer based at one or a cluster of schools full-time. Often police run classes for particular children who might be at risk of getting into trouble.

Most officers patrol the school at break times to get to know pupils. They also work with attendance staff to try to prevent pupil absences.

"The number one priority for the police at the moment is inspiring public confidence in their services, so Safer Schools Partnerships fit in very well with that," said Mr Robb. "They give teachers support and advice - especially on issues like community cohesion and tension, and the officers can help deal with rowdy behaviour.

"For youth offending teams, it helps them know early which children they need to work with and they can start doing this much earlier on through working with teachers."

Mr Robb said the partnerships also allowed police to use restorative rather than criminal justice to punish children who have broken the law. Such programmes include Youth Restorative Disposal, a pilot scheme that enables them to apologise publicly for a first offence.

Delegates attending the conferences, which have already been held in Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle, include heads, police, charity workers and trade union representatives. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, will address the conference in Leeds today.

Eyes down for bobby bingo

Police in Leicester are using special bingo cards to get to know the community.

Officers working on the deprived St Matthews estate are handing out the cards - which show photographs of the seven estate beat officers - to pupils at Taylor Road Primary.

Children are challenged to track down each officer in the photographs. When spotted, they sign the "bobby bingo" card, which is then presented to the school's headteacher, Chris Hassall, who gives out prizes.

The success of bobby bingo was proved recently when officers attended an incident opposite the school after lessons had finished.

Mr Hassall said: "There must have been around 30 children waving their cards across the street to the officers who had been dealing with the incident. They were shouting, `Please sign these for us'."

The bobby bingo prizes, which include a cuddly toy, crayons or a colouring book, have all been donated by community groups on the estate.

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