Redbridge police and teachers educate eight-year-olds about gang recruitment and knives after pupils groomed at the school gate
- Credit: Archant
Police confirm that primary children in the borough are being groomed to join street gangs and carry knives.
To tackle this trend, for the first time in London, innovative workshops about youth violence are being delivered to children as young as eight in Hainault and Barkingside.
Teachers and police have joined forces to create an education pilot programme that "goes further" than the national curriculum, while still being sensitive enough not to frighten the young children listening to it.
Insp Lee Canter of the Safer Neighbourhood Team said tackling serious youth violence and stopping children from carrying knives is a priority for the Met Police.
"We are committed to preventing Redbridge children from being exploited by county line drug dealing gangs," he said.
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"Hainault Safer Neighbourhood officers have been working closely with the schools across Hainault and the surrounding areas in partnership with Redbridge Council to deliver bespoke inputs to Redbridge students."
Insp Canter said ward officers are aware that gangs have attempted to groom young pupils and intervention while children are still at primary school is vital as it is "more difficult" once they are older.
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He explained that parents at the primary schools have been consulted about the scheme and the majority are in favour of it.
"This is an extremely challenging subject to deliver to such young students and officers are mindful not to traumatise them," he added.
"To prevent this, the talks are interactive and the knowledge levels of the students are gauged, which then ignites a conversation.
"Any concerns raised during these talks are dealt with by the school safeguarding officers who are present."
Topics spoken about include carrying knives, recruitment into street gangs, county line drug dealing, social media and drill music produced by gangs.
Additional talks have been provided to teachers and parents in some schools and officers highlight the signs to look out for that may suggest that children are being targeted by street gangs.
"The feedback has been extremely positive and Redbridge police continue to meet regularly with the teachers from Hainault schools and the council to discuss youth gang diversion and safeguarding," he said.
"We are not giving up on the older teenagers, and Redbridge Council are funding several diversion schemes including Box Up Crime in Hainault and Ilford Town Centre.
"This is so important, especially after the tragic murder of Moses Mayele in Manford Way, Hainault last October."
Children in secondary schools in Redbridge already have talks about gangs and youth violence through the Junior Citizen Scheme.
Police also work with children in Year 6 who are making the transition to a bigger school on topics including child sexual exploitation, knife crime and the dangers of social media.
Teachers in the primary pilot released a joint statement about the scheme aimed at pupils from Year 4 and up.
They said that safeguarding leads from Coppice Primary School, Manford Way, Hainault, and William Torbitt Primary School, Eastern Avenue, Newbury Park, have collaborated with the Hainault Safer Neighbourhood team to design assemblies and teaching resources that can be delivered to Hainault and Barkingside schools in a safe learning environment with trusted adults with the addition of expert police advice.
"We know that some of our children are exposed to issues relating to gangs and knife crime," they said.
"We cannot shy away from these issues and must educate children and their families to ensure their safety and equip them for their future.
"We thank the police for their proactive work for supporting us in educating our communities in these difficult subjects."
Anyone with any information on street gangs or grooming of young people should contact their local Safer Neighbourhood team via met.police.uk. Alternatively information can be provided confidentially via the Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111 or if an emergency 999.
A list of warning signs that parents can look out for, including unexplained gifts, truancy and repeated sexually transmitted infections can be obtained from the police