Children as young as five years old are being caught with knives in schools in what one charity boss has labelled a ‘cancer that is spreading’ across the country.
Freedom of Information requests made to police forces across England and Wales revealed that almost 500 kids aged under 11 were found with bladed articles in the last four years.
But the true figure could be be more than 1,000 according to the Mirror, which obtained the figures, after it said only half of forces asked for figures on youngsters found with knives came back with a response.
David Simmons, a former teacher who set up youth sporting charity Changing Lives, warned that a lack of staff and community police officers in schools would exacerbate the issue.
The youngest suspect alleged to have taken a knife to school was a five-year-old in Suffolk.
Mr Simmons, who established the charity after being threatened by a six-year-old armed with a weapon, said: ‘This issue is lack a cancer that is spreading.
‘There’s not enough staff in schools, there are no community police officers in schools, support for young people has been taken due to government cuts.’
In London, the youngest of 127 primary school-age children allegedly caught with a knife was seven, while in Suffolk police say they were alerted to a five-year-old who had a weapon.
In Cambridgeshire, a 10-year-old was the subject of a probe after allegedly assaulting someone with a pair of scissors, while in West Yorkshire a nine-year-old is said to have launched a knife attack at school.
The age of criminal responsibility in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 10 years old, meaning many of those who are alleged to have taken weapons into school will not be prosecuted.
Mr Simmons has called for more funding for community organisations, and for children to be banned from watching or playing violent media, including films and video games.
The Government said it was investing thousands in tackling the problem, reaching over 215,000 vulnerable young people with violence reduction strategies.
A spokesperson told the Mirror: ‘Our Violence Reduction Units are bringing together local partners in areas where they work to deliver early intervention and prevention programmes to drive young people from crime.’
Earlier this year, we revealed that over 2,800 children were arrested with knives both in and outside of school in 2022 – and that almost 35,000 youngsters aged between 10 and 15 have been detained in the last decade.