Knife crime is endemic in the UK, with barely a week going by without another stabbing resulting in death or critical injuries.

Recent Ministry of Justice figures highlighted that, in the year to September 2017, 4,439 knife crimes were committed by a perpetrator between 10 and 17 years old, with 582 of these perpetrators immediately taken into custody.

Tough talk from the government and the police does not yet seem to have translated into a reduction in the number of children carrying knives. For teachers and school staff, this represents a worrying picture and there’s an understandable urge to address it quickly. As a teacher, though, how do you begin to approach this subject?

Do your homework

Just as you wouldn’t expect pupils to know all their facts up front, you should prepare properly for any discussion about knives.

General anecdotes about what damage a knife can inflict can be easily disregarded by young people. Instead, read extensively around the subject and its impact on your local area. Uncover case studies that may resonate and utilise news stories where appropriate.

Remember to structure any session carefully and to ensure that you’re familiar with your school’s confidentiality policies. You’ll also need to remind pupils of this in case they make any disclosures.

Enlist the help of professionals

Whether it’s a community police officer or a nurse who has seen first-hand the impact of knife wounds, bringing in expertise from professionals can have more of an impact on pupils.

Officers are also able to highlight statistics of crime in the local area, demonstrating that these threats are close to home without encouraging further carrying of knives to combat it.

Put the children at the heart of the lesson

There are various ways you can allow children to lead the discussion in a structured session.

Separate them into small groups and ask them to write down reasons why knives are carried. This will result in a wide range of responses which can trigger further discussion and group work.

At all times, let the children lead and speak without censure. It may take a while, but they will eventually start discussing the subject.

Facilitate instead of teach

As hard as you or any other adult tries, you’re never going to be able to connect completely with pupils.

Early intervention strategies are often predicated on the idea that the grown-ups know best, and that obviously doesn’t play well with the children. Getting them to talk means taking their fears and reasons seriously.

Trivialising them will only cause further alienation, whereas exploring alternatives to knife carrying may offer food for thought.

Remember it’s a collaborative effort

Schools need to work comprehensively to tackle knife crime and the reasons young people carry knives. One teacher in a few sessions won’t be able to effect much change.

Only by implementing a sustained programme which incorporates knife crime across the curriculum and not just in PSHE classes will the possibility of reducing knife crime begin to improve.

For an example, look at this “No Knives, Better Lives” school resource used in Scotland.

Equally, teachers are just one cog in this machine – if children are being exposed to violence at home and if it’s normalised for them, teachers may struggle to get through. Above all, remember to stay safe and follow your school’s protocols.