Po­lice chief to launch crack­down on weapons in schools

Crime: Plans at ‘very ad­vanced stage’ to com­bat any threat to pupils

The Press and Journal (Highlands & Islands) - - NEWS - BY CALUM ROSS

A top po­lice of­fi­cer, who was work­ing in Aberdeen when teenager Bai­ley Gwynne was killed, has re­vealed plans for a crack­down on weapons in High­land schools.

Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Ge­orge MacDon­ald, who was ap­pointed di­vi­sional com­man­der for the High­lands and is­lands in June, said the anti-weapon strat­egy was one of the first is­sues he raised af­ter ar­riv­ing in In­ver­ness.

The Press and Jour­nal re­cently re­ported there had been five in­ci­dents in­volv­ing weapons in High­land schools last year, three of which were knives, the high­est num­ber in at least a decade.

Asked whether he was us­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence from Aberdeen, where 16-year-old Bai­ley was stabbed to death by a fel­low pupil dur­ing a fight at Cults Academy two years ago, Ch Supt MacDon­ald said he was work­ing with lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion chiefs on im­ple­ment­ing a new pol­icy.

He added: “One of the first ques­tions I asked when I ar­rived here was what is the col­lec­tive pol­icy round about weapons in schools. It’s not just about knives, but weapons in schools. We’ve been work­ing very closely with ed­u­ca­tion to de­velop that and im­ple­ment that, and that’s at a very ad­vanced stage.

“I’ve taken the learn­ing from else­where and I’ve asked the ques­tions, and it will take us to a place where all of us will be a lot more com­fort­able.”

The po­lice chief was speak­ing in the week that Ding­wall Academy be­came the lat­est north sec­ondary to write to par­ents warn­ing that some pupils were tak­ing drugs dur­ing school hours, fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar move taken by schools in In­ver­ness, Nairn and Tain last year.

Ch Supt MacDon­ald backed the de­ci­sion by schools, say­ing: “I think ed­u­ca­tion have got a pretty good over­sight of what is hap­pen­ing in schools and if ed­u­ca­tion are com­mu­ni­cat­ing with par­ents, that is a good thing.

“The more that we talk about and the more we pub­li­cise th­ese things, the more par­ents and chil­dren get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the risks associated with it.

“We’re do­ing a lot of work with ed­u­ca­tion in terms of sup­port­ing the drugs mes­sage in schools.

“A host of is­sues. Al­co­hol, drugs, cy­ber crime, cy­ber in gen­eral, sex­ual crime”

“There are a whole host of is­sues and chal­lenges for young peo­ple. Al­co­hol, drugs, cy­ber crime, cy­ber in gen­eral, sex­ual crime. What we’re work­ing with ed­u­ca­tion to do is de­velop a pro­gramme that cov­ers all of th­ese is­sues, not just warn them in iso­la­tion.

“But if a school has got con­cerns about in­for­ma­tion they’ve re­ceived and they’re do­ing some­thing proac­tive about that, I com­mend them on that.”

Bill Alexan­der, High­land Coun­cil’s di­rec­tor of care and learn­ing, said: “The coun­cil works very closely with part­ners, in­clud­ing po­lice and NHS, to ed­u­cate chil­dren about the dan­gers of sub­stance mis­use and the im­por­tance of mak­ing the right choices.

“There are ef­fec­tive in­ter­ven­tions to pre­vent and re­duce sub­stance mis­use and we have very suc­cess­ful sub­stance mis­use ser­vices.

“The wel­fare of chil­dren is ev­ery­one’s re­spon­si­bil­ity and early in­ter­ven­tion is ex­tremely im­por­tant.”

TRAGEDY: When Bai­ley Gwynne was killed Ch Supt MacDon­ald worked in Aberdeen

Ge­orge MacDon­ald

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