Thousands of pupils have been caught carrying weapons in schools – some as young as four years old, an investigation has found.
Police responses to freedom of information requests by the PA news agency reveal that pupils have carried weapons such as knives, knuckle-dusters and blades into school, as well as some more unusual weapons.
A pupil in Bedfordshire was caught with a machete, while others were accused of carrying a meat cleaver and a firearm, which they allegedly used to threaten others.
And in Cambridgeshire, a pupil adapted a “fidget spinner” – a popular toy – with spikes to be used as a weapon.
Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed a 14-year-old was handed a youth caution for bringing a sword into school, while peers the same age were also found to have been carrying a BB gun and a corkscrew.
Knife crime in school
Police in Greater Manchester said a samurai sword was recovered by officers investigating an allegation of a person having an article with a blade or point on school premises.
The force also said officers charged a suspect for bringing a pair of gardening shears on site.
Leicestershire police said a 15-year-old was handed a youth caution for bringing nunchucks to school, while Norfolk constabulary said other pupils were found with a baton, a wooden stake and a pencil sharpener blade.
Northumbria police's list of weapons at school included a chair leg, a baseball bat, broken glass and a butter knife - the latter being found on a suspect aged 10 or younger.
Police in the Thames Valley reported a bayonet discovered at one school, while a hatchet and a hammer were used to threaten another person.
The force said other weapons involved in incidents at school included a machete, a Taser and a snooker ball.
West Midlands police said a 15-year-old was cautioned for being caught in possession of an axe, while a 16-year-old was given a postal charge for possessing a zombie knife.
In Wiltshire, armoured gloves, a hammer and a shank were among the weapons allegedly used.
Nationally the data suggests that five weapons-related offences happen every day on school premises on average. In all, knives were involved in 1,260 incidents in schools in England and Wales between April 2017 and August 2019, according to 23 police forces with relevant details.
School leaders said the figures were "grim but unsurprising", reflecting an issue in society as a whole that schools cannot solve alone.
Police chiefs warned that violence is a growing problem among young people, and forces are working with schools to educate youngsters and explain why they should not carry weapons.
In one incident, Dyfed Powys police recorded an unidentified four-year-old who is said to have been in possession of an unnamed weapon. They were unable to provide further details about the incident.
Lucy Martindale, a youth worker from South London who lost 11 family and friends to murder, gun and knife crime during a seven-year period, said: "The situation is getting worse, even just this year.
"Some young people I speak to say before they leave the house – where most people check they have picked up their keys and wallet or purse – they check they have their knives with them.
"There needs to be more collaborative action – not just government, but the community as a whole, parents, police, coming together and trying to come up with an answer."
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, argued that cuts to policing and local support services are fuelling problems with weapons in society.
He said: "These figures are grim but unsurprising and reflect a growing problem over the prevalence of weapons in wider society."
He added: "The scourge of weapons has grown worse in recent years, and while there are a number of complex factors involved. A key issue has been cuts in policing and local support services for vulnerable families.
"Gangs have filled this vacuum, and often pressure and groom young people into dealing drugs and carrying weapons.