Children as young as 10 witness serious violence on the streets but few raise the experience with their teachers as they don’t believe schools are ready or able to help. These findings come from a ground-breaking study of primary school children in London conducted by Witness Confident.
The good news is that young children are predisposed to do the right thing, with almost all the 10 and 11 year old children interviewed saying if they see a child being mugged they will help the victim, call the police or chase the villain. Notably, the children were more likely to contact the police where the attacker was a stranger to them. Where they knew or could identify the attacker, different considerations (including loyalty) arose. These shoudl prompt a rethink in how the police seek information from inner city communities.
Witness Confident is offering practical help to schools to reassure young children and parents that primary schools are a good place to discuss experiences of street violence and the role of witnesses in a safe and constructive way. “We are missing the boat if we wait till secondary school to discuss street violence and we distress and demonise children if we then portray them as villains or victims. The witness role chimes better with their experiences and with their wish to do good,” says Guy Dehn, the charity’s director.
The charity’s call for a fresh approach to address street violence in years 5 & 6 is backed up in this comment piece by Pat Boyer, teacher and lately head teacher.