Timed to reach schools before they break for summer, the government has today (17 July) announced a series of lesson plans which are focussed on preventing knife crime through deterrence.

The lesson plans are designed for schools and aim to educate those aged between 11 and 16 about the dangers and consequences of choosing to carry a knife. Additionally, the plans include the teaching of ways to not succumb to any peer pressure which may incite the carrying of a knife as well as inspiring young people to reach their potential.

Guidance issued by the PSHE Association, who work collaboratively with the Home Office to devise the lesson plans, encourages teachers to carry out the lessons “alongside topics exploring safety or gang crime.”

In a comment about the lesson plans, Nadhim Zahawi, the Children’s Minister, said about the “devastating consequences” that knife crime has on society and stated that the “government is determined to take action.”

The #knifefree campaign

Today's announcement is part of the government’s knife free campaign.

This initiative was launched in March this year and is an effort to is discourage knife crime by youths. At the core of the campaign is the sharing of videos containing accounts by young people who previously carried a knife but no longer do. An advertising campaign to launch the initiative was run on social media platforms for a duration of six weeks at the cost of £1.35 million.

A website, knifefree.co.uk, set up for the initiative contains the videos as well as featuring information which the government hopes will deter young people from making the decision to carry a knife. Speaking in a press release about the launch in March, the then, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, stated: “I hope any young person who is seriously thinking about carrying a knife listens to what the implications can be.”

Incidences of knife crime

In the latest figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), it is reported that 39,598 “knife or sharp instrument” offences were recorded.

This is for the year ending December 2017 and is the highest level in seven years.

Incidents of knife crime in London this year have been especially high with multiple stabbings carried out and the latest one happening late afternoon on July 16 in the centre of London in a Leicester Square Casino, as reported in the Evening Standard.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has been under particular scrutiny over the levels of knife crime in London. In May he was criticised by some for announcing his call for a ban on fast food adverts from Transport for London (TfL) while incidences of violent crime were so high. More recently, on Sunday, July 15, he received questions about the levels of crime from Andrew Marr on the politics TV programme The Andrew Marr Show.

At the Serious Violence Taskforce meeting today where the school-lessons plan announcement was made, Khan was one of those presenting and he launched a London-focused educational toolkit called “London Needs You Alive” which aims to lower knife crime.

The effectiveness of both The Mayor Office’s toolkit and the England-wide anti-knife crime lessons will not be known until the lesson plans are carried out in schools. With the summer holidays fast approaching, schools will have to carry out the lessons soon if they are going to have any influence before summer.