Students across the UK find themselves confronted with violent crime reports and imagery every day.
Even if they don’t actively follow mainstream news, their presence on social media often results in passing knowledge of what’s going on and, equally, schools themselves are compelled to discuss crime when it becomes an issue in local areas or, indeed, with the school itself.
Knife crime across England and Wales rose by 22% in 2017, and the police recorded 1.2 million violence against the person offences in the year ending March 2017.
The need to address these issues is found both at school and at home, but what strategies can teachers use to start these difficult conversations?
Embed it across the curriculum
PSHE lessons are an obvious location for conversations about violence to take place.
Thanks to the Government’s ‘Disrespect NoBody’ campaign, there is a clear framework within PSHE to have difficult discussions about relationship violence and abuse, and this translates into conversations about other forms of violence.
However, there are opportunities for discussions about violent crime to take place across the curriculum. History, for example, offers numerous opportunities for analysing the rights and wrongs of given situations, while there are also opportunities across Drama, PE, Art and Chemistry.
Simply mentioning the issues faced by, say, assault victims and acid attack victims can be enough to start a process of communication for a student troubled by it.
Set ground rules ahead of discussions
There’s a fine line between being open enough and laying yourself open for trouble.
Some pupils will always push boundaries and others may be incredibly uncomfortable about some conversations, especially if they affect them personally or they have a history of them.
Establishing ground rules for group discussions, including the ‘right to pass’ is part of the ‘Disrespect NoBody’ strategy guide, although you need to make students aware of school safeguarding procedures in case anything they say warrants action.
Expand their horizons
As already mentioned, older pupils will often have ideas of violent crime taking place in their communities and further afield due to their online presence. However, they may be skewed by biased news outlets and sensationalist headings.
Helping pupils develop the critical-thinking tools they need to analyse and evaluate is something that takes place across the curriculum, so making use of these skills when discussing violent crime should become commonplace.
Focus on facts
In a Comic Relief campaign based on violence against women and girls, the methods that pupils were most receptive to were drama, testimonials, case studies, facts and statistics.
This emphasis on reality rather than hypotheticals can demonstrate the seriousness of violent crime, although it should naturally be tailored to the age-group you’re dealing with.
Ultimately, your pupils are the target audience and the strategies you develop must be based on their capacity to understand and participate in conversations about violent crime.