As a new term starts, Thames Valley Police have reaffirmed their commitment to keeping specially trained officers working in schools to support young people, keep them safe and prevent them being drawn into crime and violence.

Within the force's Violence Reduction Unit there are currently 18 schools officers operating across the area, carrying out regular visits to help educate young people on issues such as drugs, violence, exploitation and abuse.

Tim Martin, headteacher of Wheatley Park School, said: “Children are growing up in a complex world and it is our challenge to help them to attain educationally but also to help them navigate the risks they face.

“Our pupils enjoy the opportunity to have frank conversations with police officers and our teachers also benefit from their involvement in lessons. They bring advice, guidance and support the school in the wider community.

“Our relationship with Thames Valley Police and the support we receive from our dedicated Schools Officers is vital to the our ability to help give our children the best start in life.”

The unit has developed new processes around drugs or violence which seek to prevent exclusion and early criminalisation and work to keep a young person in education.

A suite of resources and initiatives includes items such as the PC Ben storybook which is delivered by the local neighbourhood team to help explain the role of the police and build trust from an early age.

The Mini Police involve children in community events, providing a special uniform and equipment.

New educational plans and materials are being delivered in Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) lessons, covering topics including drugs and violence while a new deflection programme aims to support a school to prevent disciplinary issues escalating.

Schools Officers are being offered restorative justice training to avoid early criminalisation and seek more positive outcomes and police officers and staff are receiving training on the impact of early childhood trauma and its effects on behaviour.

Chief Superintendent Katy Barrow-Grint, of Thames Valley Police’s Local Policing directorate, said: “Together with the Violence Reduction Unit, we have a package of resources that our officers can use to educate on the difficult issues young people face and we work closely with schools to prevent young people being excluded or criminalised wherever appropriate.

"This helps them stay engaged in education and keeps them safe and away from crime.”

Tom Goodenough, Education Lead for the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, himself a former headteacher, added:“Early-years engagement with young people helps to build their trust in the police and gives them the awareness and skills to manage the risks they face in a fast-paced world.”