"People feel they can walk around with a knife and not feel challenged"
Children as young as five have been caught with knives at school as police forces reveal they have seized thousands of weapons from youngsters.
Police admit there is a “worrying” epidemic of knife-carrying among youngsters and have confiscated weapons such as samurai swords, axes and air guns from schools.
New figures from 32 police forces in England and Wales showed there were 2,579 weapons found in schools in 2016, according to data obtained under Freedom of Information requests.
But the real figure is likely to be much higher as some forces failed to provide data or offered incomplete details and since 2016 some 1,369 weapons were found - a rise of almost 20% on the previous year.
Ken Marsh, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “The increase is also down to the impunity of people who feel they can walk around with a knife and not feel challenged. It’s the norm and that is wholly wrong.”
The Metropolitan Police said earlier this month that officers would be working with schools to highlight the potential consequences of carrying a knife.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Knife Crime, Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock, said: “Schools should be free of weapons and all children should be able to learn without fear or violence.
“Carrying a weapon of any kind in schools is not an issue for a school to deal with alone; police and partners will always be willing to work with them and take appropriate action.
“We have recently seen an increase in young people carrying knives and this is worrying. We are responding to this trend by targeting those who carry them illegally and working with retailers to reduce the sale of knives to underage people through nationally coordinated operations.
“Police involvement in schools, whether it be officers delivering talks and interactive sessions or based in schools themselves as part of the Safer Schools Partnership, helps us to educate young people and explain why carrying a weapon illegally is never acceptable.”
In London 11 people have been stabbed to death in the last two weeks and one of the victims, Elijah Dornelly, aged 17, was fatally wounded after he had attended an anti-knife crime rally earlier in the day.
The Metropolitan Police - Britain’s largest force - have reported a 24% increase in knife crime across the capital and a 42% rise in gun crime.
Martin Hewitt, the force’s assistant commissioner, said there was an increase in young people carrying knives, but only a quarter of those stopped were linked to gangs.
Many youngsters believe they need to carry a knife for self-protection. Mr Hewitt said on a recent school visit to a class of 10-year-olds he asked who knew someone who carried a knife and three-quarters said they did.
He added: “Young people carrying knives are doing so for a variety of reasons including status, criminality and self-protection but only around a quarter are affiliated with gangs.
“There is a phenomenon of people feeling that you need to carry a knife to be safe … The problem comes when you then get a confrontation.”
Data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last month revealed 4.8m offences were recorded by police in 2016 compared with 4.4 million in 2015.
The 9% jump included 1.3m incidents of violent crime, which marked a 4% rise and represents the first increase since 2011, but figures show a 14% increase in knife crime from 28,427 offences to 32,448 last year.