Knife crime in schools and exclusions

Carrying a knife is a criminal offence under s.1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and s.4 of the Offensive Weapons Act 1996 (which inserted s.139A into the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons, Bladed and Pointed Articles on school premises)).

In a Panorama series last year (Knives in the Classroom), it was reported that in England and Wales 17,000 10-15 year olds were carrying knives and there were 47,000 juvenile knife offences in England and Wales the year prior to the airing of the programme. 

There have been numerous views expressed as to the causes of knife crime, one such view linking it with school exclusions. But in certain circumstances, including when a pupil brings a knife into school, exclusion may be the only option.

There is a two part test that must be satisfied before a pupil can be excluded. 

A school may exclude a pupil if there has been a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy and where allowing a pupil to remain at the school is likely to cause harm to the education or welfare of individuals at the school. Carrying a knife is a serious breach of a school’s behaviour policy. Bringing a weapon into a school puts other students and others at risk of physical harm. Therefore the test is satisfied.

But does that mean head teachers should automatically exclude a pupil in such circumstances? Not necessarily. There may be situations where exclusion could be seen as heavy handed - for example if there is a religious reason as to why a blade of a particular type is carried by a pupil.  

Excluding a pupil carrying a knife can act as a deterrent to others. The importance of a deterrent cannot be taken lightly, especially in certain parts of the country where knife crime is a particular problem. The power of the deterrent, however, does not undermine the importance of strong preventative measures relating to knife crime that schools should have in place.


If you would like to discuss potential preventative measures, the statutory guidance on exclusions, the process of excluding a pupil or any other matter related to the content of this article, please contact Thomas Emmett on 01245 453847 or at thomas.emmett@birkettlong.co.uk. 

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.