Opinion Former Article

NUT: New Powers for Schools to Search Pupils for Weapons

Commenting upon the Welsh Assembly Government's new legislation that gives schools in Wales new powers to search pupils for weapons under the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, which comes into effect on October 31st 2010, NUT Cymru agree that heads should have powers to search pupils for weapons, but said that care should be taken as they are not law enforcement officers.

Wales Secretary David Evans said:

"Whilst the vast majority of schools in Wales are safe environments in which to learn, there are rare occasions when young people may be carrying and concealing dangerous materials. In those situations, teachers have to make a judgement call on the spot. Therefore school staff need to be protected from the burden of having to prove why they lawfully confiscate items, and should not be subject to the potential for accusations that they are acting illegally because the items that they are searching for fall outside the range permitted by law.

"If this does not happen, school staff will be reluctant to challenge pupils for fear of reprisals. There must be clear guidance issued and staff must not be forced into any situation that they feel uncomfortable with for whatever reason. We need to realise that teachers are in the business of educating rather than policing but in areas where such matters can overlap, the individual will be confident to act appropriately.

"The current legislation makes an invidious distinction between alcohol, weapons and drugs and all other items. That does not reflect the reality of the situation teachers sometimes face.

"We need to examine the implications of simplifying the legislation on pupil restraint but if it provides further protection for teachers who themselves are protecting children or themselves, then that is welcome. It is vitally important that in all such scenarios the teachers feel supported by the school, its governors and the local education authority who, of course, have ultimate responsibility.

Contact David Evans, NUT Cymru, Ty Sinnott, 18 Neptune Court, Vanguard Way, Cardiff CF24 5PJ. Tel: 02920 491818. Mob: 07815 071164 e-mail: cymru.wales@nut.org.uk

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