Home Office backing for PC in playground

A government minister has waded into the debate over whether there should be a police officer based at schools

Ben McPartland

A government minister has waded into the debate over whether there should be a police officer based at schools.

Home Office minister Meg Hillier visited Hampstead School to support a recent decision by governors to bring back a dedicated officer on site.

PC Anna Lovell is to join the school on Westbere Road, West Hampstead, as a safer schools officer replacing PC Craig Shenkin who left his post last summer.

The decision has been opposed by a group of parents who believe it should be the role of teachers to patrol corridors and not police.

But Ms Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said: "It's about making police an everyday part of life.

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"Kids can know who their local police officers are and they can tell them things they would not necessarily report in a police station. When I was a kid, if I was lost, I was told to go and speak to a policeman. So this is about bringing that trust back into the community."

Ms Hillier was involved in the development of the Safer Schools Partnership as part of her work at the Home Office. Parent Kay Chapman, who opposed replacing the school's police officer, said: "We are very angry and disappointed that they have come to this decision. It was taken behind closed doors. This is a controversial decision.

"From a show of hands, parents were against these proposals and the school has just ignored why we were against it. The school really has to address the points that parents raised. There is not trouble in the school. The trouble pupils have is on the way to school. They are being bullied and robbed there."

But not all parents agree and many are pleased to hear about the return of the police to Hampstead.

Richard Olszewski has a daughter at the school. He said: "It's good to have a police presence as a kind of normal part of the school community.

"I know my own child is perfectly happy with there being an officer around. The children can become familiar with the police so they are not seen as a separate factor."

Headteacher Jacques Szemalikowski said: "The Safer Schools Partnership provides an excellent opportunity to extend our students' experience as well as contributing to providing a safe and secure school community.

"We look forward to welcoming Anna to our staff team."