This week we went to see The National Monument against Violence and Aggression, better known as The Knife Angel. It’s a 20ft high sculpture of an angel made from 100,000 knives either seized or surrendered as part of amnesties. It’s touring round cathedrals in England and is in Rochester until Sunday 29th September 2019. When we were there we spoke to one of the cathedral volunteers about the piece. We asked whether they had an intended audience for the installation. The volunteer said that all schools in the area were being offered free transport to attend a one-hour session to see the Knife Angel and learn more about knife crime, and in particular targeted Year 6 and Year 7 children (i.e. those between the ages of 10-12) were being targeted. Whilst there they can sign a “pledge book” and pledge not to carry a knife.
You might be thinking that these children seem young to be receiving knife crime intervention. But recent research using data from the Millennium Cohort Study, published by the Home Office (2019:14) found that 3.5% of children had used or carried a knife at age 14. The Children’s Commissioner’s Manifesto for Children, which we spoke about in last week’s post, said that “573 children were admitted to hospital last year with stab wounds” (2019: 11). Whilst a recent report from Ofsted (2019: 4) states that “data from 21 police forces in England and Wales obtained through a freedom of information request showed that 363 sharp instruments were found on school property in 2017–18”. That’s about 10 a week, over the course of an academic year.
So perhaps that suggests that targeting children in Year 6 and Year 7 is a sensible move, and we hope that the Knife Angel plays a role in discouraging people from carrying knives. When reading about knife crime and children something that has resonated with us is a headline from academics Case and Haines (2019) who suggest that “children are not the problem, they are part of the solution” when it comes to knife crime, and engaging them in positive, nurturing relationships can be beneficial in reducing criminal outcomes. They argue that responses to knife crime “must involve partnerships between a variety of children’s services, such as youth offending teams and youth work, and other relevant organisations such as police, schools, and housing authorities. This echoes Ofsted (2019: 3) who stress that although schools can teach about knife-related dangers and can protect children whilst they are on the premise, they can “only do so much… children need everyone in society – the police, LAs, health, youth services, welfare services, housing services, local communities, their parents, social media providers and so on – to work together and to put children first and protect them from county lines, gangs, knives, drugs and from adults who pose a risk to them.”
If you have the chance to go and see the Knife Angel, then do. And also take some time to reflect on the issue of knife crime in the UK, and what you think could be beneficial in encourage children to pledge to remain knife-free. We’d love to hear your thoughts.