SPECIAL REPORT: Are knife detectors and body scanners needed in schools?

A pupil at a school passes through a metal detector at the school entrance
A pupil at a school passes through a metal detector at the school entrance

In our ongoing special series on knife crime, we today look at the proposed use of body scanners and metal detectors in schools to prevent attacks.


Such ideas were ventured after the fatal stabbing of Wigan-born teacher Ann Maguire in a Leeds school nearly four years ago.

Special investigation

Special investigation

Related: Shock haul of weapons seized from schoolchildren

But, as our exclusive interview with her sister Denise Courtney revealed yesterday, she doubts whether Ann would approve of such measures, saying education is the way forward. And Denise agreed. Here we give two opposing views on the subject.

Teachers are concerned that the introduction of knife detectors and body scanners in schools in a bid to cut knife crime would undermine trust between them and their pupils, the ex-president of the NUT has said.

Anne Swift, who was the president of the National Union of Teachers last year and is a former headteacher of Gladstone Road Primary in Scarborough, said while it may be necessary for temporary security measures to be introduced at some schools if there is a known threat, making them a permanent feature of the school day was not a good idea.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has offered knife wands to state secondary schools in the capital but there has only been a 15 per cent take-up rate so far.

A Google survey commissioned by Johnston Press found more than two-thirds would welcome body scanners at school entrances as a deterrent measure.

But Mrs Swift said she was not convinced it was a good idea.

“Teachers on the whole don’t want anything to come between them and their relationship with the young people they teach. They wouldn’t want anything that got in the way of establishing those good relationships. We want schools to be safe places where children can air their thoughts and feelings.

“Anybody who has gone through airport security knows it makes you feel a bit nervous, even when you have done nothing wrong. We trust our young people and we want them to trust us.”

She said space should be set aside in the curriculum to allow teachers to discuss with pupils the reasons that children may bring knives into schools to help them dissuade them from doing so.

“There is very little slack in the curriculum to have those conversations with young people.

“It perhaps reflects society as a whole that some young people feel they need to carry a weapon.”
The Government has granted teachers statutory powers to search pupils for weapons where there is “reasonable grounds” to believe they may be carrying them.

The law also allows scanning to take place even if there is no suspicion of an individual child having a weapon.

But the NUT’s official position is that it does not support the routine screening and searching of pupils; both because of the potential to undermine trust and concerns about the risk of physical injury should a child be carrying a weapon.