Campaign against council’s plan to increase police presence in Manchester schools

  • Council believe that a larger police presence is needed
  • Kids of Colour: 'From our report, we know that police presence increases anxiety fear and discomfort for students'
  • GMCA says 20 dedicated police officers to be assigned to schools where knife crime is an issue

The ‘No Police in Schools’ campaign is fighting against plans to increase police presence in schools.  

The campaign is backed by Manchester-based Kids of Colour, who educate young people on race, identity and culture and create a safe space allowing young people of colour to freely express themselves and talk about their experiences without the fear of being shut down or questioned.

The organisation claim the presence of police in schools creates a climate of fear and hostility for already marginalised groups – this comes after the mayor of Manchester spoke about increasing police presence in schools.

Project officer Mea Aitken  said: “In Kids of Colour, we really try and adapt to the needs of the community, so this often means we have to be quite flexible with the work that we do.

“My work includes doing antiracist workshops, speaking on panels, writing articles, holding safe spaces for young people of colour and contributing to research, such as our joint report with the Northern Police Monitoring Project, Decriminalise the Classroom.

“From the report, we know that police presence increases anxiety fear and discomfort for students which is far from the way to make students feel engaged and empowered to learn and develop themselves.

“Having police in schools completely ignores the root of why a student may be struggling, these students should be given additional support, not made fearful due to a police presence”.

Referring to the report, she said: “The language and treatment of students of colour at the hands of school-based police officers is shocking. Groups of black students being labelled as a gang; overly aggressive and sexualised language being used towards female students of colour such as ‘slut’ and harsh sanctions being given out to student of colour for their behaviour.

“We believe that this is creating a very toxic environment for students, especially student of colour and it feels important that we challenge the normalisation of this police presence in schools.”

Ms Aitken also believes that Manchester as a city is arguably over-policed already: “There are definitely areas in Manchester that are over-policed. In areas such as Moss Side and Gorton, there is a much higher police presence than in areas such as Didsbury and Chorlton.

“The areas that are over-policed are often majority working-class or people of colour and as we know from stop and search statistics it is people from these communities who are often overpoliced and unjustly stopped.”

It was also found in the report that some respondents believed that a police presence would ‘increase safety, deter violence, and improve police relations with over-policed communities’.

Others believed that the ‘presence of police in schools creates a climate of fear, anxiety and hostility for young people, particularly for those that are already marginalised.’

When speaking about Covid-19’s impact on young people, Aitken said: “If we look at the disruption to education that Covid has caused and think about the existing attainment gap, it is likely that we will see that covid will affect the performance of students of colour’s attainment.

“This could be because students of colour are less likely to have access to additional support such as private tutoring and also not have access to the same resources as other students.”

Kids of Colour is entirely donation funded – they also apply for funding for organisations that have pots of money for similar projects.

Currently they have a crowdfunding aim of £3,000, and have currently raised £39,023 with 1,397 donations.

The Serious Violence Action Plan was drafted by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to show the importance of having officers in certain schools.

The plan is an online document containing seven steps the GMCA is looking to implement, including thecollaborating with schools and colleges to prevent violence.

The report states: “Any projects of activities will be done with the involvement of the voluntary and community sector, rather than assuming we know what communities need.

“In the last three years, the number of knife crime offences in schools 61 to 127, a rise of 108%.

“Many senior leaders in schools and colleges have asked for dedicated police officers or community support officers to assist them in preventing knife crime and serious violence”.

The report adds that  “schools are often the first to identify changes in a young person’s behaviour or life circumstances and having a police officer on site would help those schools an appropriate package of support for that young individual”.

This could include coaching, mentoring schemes or increased skill development support. They found that having a permeant police presence in the school would be the best decision.

The report also found that “many people cited concerns that an increasing number of young people are carrying weapons, including knifes out of fear or a misguided notion of being better protected with a weapon”.

GMCA aims to provide all educational establishments in Greater Manchester with a named link within a neighbourhood policing team and at least 20 officers will be dedicated to the schools of greatest need.