children's commissioner

Schools in areas with high levels of serious youth violence should remain open in the evenings and at weekends as part of “emergency measures” to tackle the problem, the children’s commissioner has said.

Anne Longfield told the parliamentary education committee that knife crime was a “massive concern” for her office, and warned of “a really vulnerable group of kids who are falling through the gaps and becoming marginalised”.

I would like to see schools staying open in the evenings and opening at weekends

It follows calls last year for staggered school finish times to stop rival groups of pupils clashing after leaving the school gates.

Schools are under increasing pressure to help tackle serious youth violence following a rise in the number of knife offences in England and Wales over the last five years. The number of young people hospitalised after an assault by a sharp object has also risen since 2014.

The Home Office has already proposed that teachers be “held accountable” for preventing and tacking knife crime and other serious violence, but Ofsted has warned that schools don’t get enough support to help deal with the issue.

“I think we should almost be on emergency measures in the areas of high violence,” Longfield said this morning.

“I would like to see schools staying open in the evenings and opening at weekends. I would like there to be youth workers who are proactively in schools talking to the kids at risk.”

However, she admitted there were problems with “fragmentation” of local services, such as youth workers, and between government departments, and said a joined-up approach should be a “top priority” for Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

Schools Week revealed last November how many schools have already stepped up their response to rising youth violence levels, often putting staff in danger as a result.

Carolyn Roberts, headteacher of Thomas Tallis School in south-east London, said she had been forced to send her staff to “actively supervise” the local shops until 4pm, when a curfew comes into effect. Any pupils caught in the area after that time are disciplined when they return to school.