A RISE in the number of crimes where a pupil took a weapon into school in Worcestershire is due to 'better recording of offences'.

Statistics for West Mercia Police, released after a Freedom of Information request, show weapon possession offences rose from three to 17 from January 2013 to October 2018 –with three of those 17 last year involving a knife.

However, the number of offences where a knife was used as a weapon on school premises dropped from nine in 2016 to three in 2018.

The number of cautions issued to pupils in relation to weapon incidents also rose from 2013 to 2018, by 100 per cent, for children aged between 13 and 16.

Four children aged 13 to 16 in 2018 received police cautions but no charges were brought for the first time since 2013, contrasting to three charges in 2016.

West Mercia Police say the rise in the last five years is because crime recording has changed and schools are better at reporting incidents, and police and schools have stronger relationships through initiatives such as regular visits from officers.

Police and Crime Commissioner for the region, John Campion, said: "All forms of recorded crime have seen increases over the last five years. This does not necessarily indicate an increase in actual crime. Often it simply shows recording practices have improved.

“In either case, I am reassured that in West Mercia these types of incidents remain extremely rare, and recorded incidents have dropped again in the last couple of years.

“I have invested significantly in programmes to support our most vulnerable young people and will continue to do so as commissioner. These include mentoring schemes in local schools, work with local charities, and an education initiative specifically focussed on educating young people on the dangers of knife crime."

Talking about the national knife crime issue, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “The increase in knife crime and its devastating consequences on families and communities is a very serious problem. The causes and not just the symptoms need to be urgently looked at to ensure that it is tackled effectively.

“This clearly means going much further than laying the blame at the door of school exclusions.

“Children and young people are exposed to pressures from peers and gangs outside of the school gates.

“Youth services have been decimated leaving very few safe places to go outside of school hours or during the holidays. Support services to deal with behaviour issues that occur in and outside of schools have also been cut back or disappeared altogether. Schools, always reluctantly, sometimes have to exclude pupils.

“However, the illegal off-rolling of pupils who too often drop through the system with no adequate safety net to catch them cannot be justified. To stop this happening schools need the resources, support and funding to cope with pupils with additional needs and we need an accountability system that does not penalise schools who are working with children with complex needs”.