Topic: Knife Crime

This toolkit aims to support and assist education staff, partner agencies and CYP practitioners in their work with children, young people and families by providing information, advice and links to resources specific to knife crime, including lesson plans for KS2 which can be accessed in the resources section at the bottom of this page.


With a steady rise in knife related crimes being reported over the last few years, there is a concern that it is fast becoming an epidemic across the country, specifically impacting on young people, families and communities.

It must be recognised that these concerns are not just being felt by adults but also by children and young people themselves. Research has shown that children are living in fear of crime more so than adults; reinforced by the UK Youth Parliament 2018 ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot which saw 1.1million children participate, a significant proportion of which came from Hampshire children, where knife crime was voted the top concern for young people.

Why are young people are carrying knives?

National and local research continues to determine root causes of why young people are carrying knives to inform the work needed to tackle the issue and reduce the risks posed. Although not exhaustive, below are some common factors known to influence young people to carry knives:

• County lines – organised drug networks
• Gang affiliation – protection/status
• Media attention/glamorisation
• Fear of crime – being attacked/self-protection
• Victim of bullying – self-protection
• Peer pressure – perception that most young people carry knives

The common factor is the ‘vicious circle’ young people find themselves in, for example – in a gang/drug network it is an expectation to be armed: ‘fear or be feared’ ‘live or die’ – regarding fear of crime and thinking ‘I need to defend myself’ highlights the absence of thinking or disregard that they are committing a crime to prevent a crime which is not a defence in law – also risking the knife they carry being used on them in a confrontation or causing injury to themselves.

The biggest concern and risk is that if a young person carries a knife they will almost definitely use it in situations where they feel the need to protect themselves, commit a crime, cause fear or reinforce their status/reputation.

More information about ‘County Lines’ can be found in our Child Criminal Exploitation toolkit via the link button below:

The Law

The law takes a robust approach to dealing with knife crime – adults charged with possession of a knife will automatically go before a court. In cases where the carrier is 10-17yrs, they will automatically be referred to the Youth Offending Team – a charging decision will be made by a multi-agency panel, based on a range of factors relevant to the incident. Outcomes vary and range from participation in a 20 week programme to educate and prevent repeated behaviour, to being sent to court. Where a young person is found in possession of a knife for a second time, the case will automatically be sent to court.

Victims or Criminals?

More often than not, children and young people involved in carrying knives are victims in some sense of the word, be it of criminal exploitation, gangs, fear of crime or perceived social/peer norms. It is important as professionals to look beyond them all being violent criminals, antisocial or feral, as has happened in the past – seeing them as victims first growing up in a culture which exposes them to significant influence, coercion, control and pressure.

Early intervention and a robust partnership approach is key if we are to play a part in changing this culture for children and young people’s future – such a success has been seen in Scotland with the No Lives, Better Knives Programme – tackling and reducing the problem through a public-health approach with schools, health, police, local authorities and relevant partner organisations, highlighting the benefits of a joined-up approach.

Working in Partnership

As already mentioned, this is a societal problem which cannot be tackled by police, schools or single agencies alone, highlighting the need to work together both reactively and proactively.

The responsibility must be that of us all  – police, LAs, education, health, youth services, welfare services, housing services, local communities, parents, social media providers etc. – we must all work together to effectively protect children and young people from the threat of county lines, gangs, knives, drugs, media/peer perceptions and adults who pose the risk of exploiting them.

Where police and local authorities have tactical strategies to tackle knife crime, it is important that all partners are aware of these locally and to identify how they can contribute to the aims set out in them.

Accepting that schools and colleges can only do so much to identify, support and protect children and young people on site, they do have the platform to teach and raise awareness of the dangers/risks of knives, to help them develop the skills and understanding needed to identify risky situations, know how to respond and where to seek help/advice if they need it.

Understanding the squeeze on curriculum time, it is vital that schools play a role as a proactive partner in tackling this issue by prioritising time to deliver knife crime education at age appropriate levels to keep children and young people safe and help them develop the skills needed to keep themselves safe.

Supporting Education

As part of our local work to support the national Operation Sceptre strategy, we have devised some guidance for schools detailing more about OP Sceptre and how they can get involved and develop ways to tackle knife crime alongside us. Consisting of advice, ideas and lesson resources, the guidance aims to support schools with exploring steps they could consider to tackle knife crime and reduce the threat and risk of harm posed to young people and the community. The guidance can be accessed via the link button below.

Op Sceptre - Week of Action

Knife Education Resources

More education resources are being developed to tackle knife crime than ever before to support schools and colleges with delivering lessons – these include development of lesson plans for KS2 for earlier intervention.

Quality assured resources include those provided by The PSHE Association as part of the Home Office #knifefree campaign (KS3/4), the street crime toolkit from Fearless (KS3/4), lesson plans from The Ben Kinsella Trust which include the Choices & Consequences resources for KS2 and ‘The Playing Safe’ resources for KS2 from No Lives, Better Knives (Scotland). These can be accessed via the link buttons below:

Ben Kinsella Trust
No Knives Better Lives