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Theft in secondary schools - has your school found any way to deal with it?

(39 Posts)
Jo258 Sat 20-Jun-15 06:42:39

I am a teacher (primary) but I'm actually picking your brains from a parent viewpoint today as my dd is in secondary school. Her school seems to be having a spate of thefts - in dd's group of friends alone I think nearly all have had money stolen at least once, including dd, and one girl has had money taken three times (I know, she should learn!)

The children generally carry their bags around with them all the time. They have lockers in their form rooms which they can put them in at certain times. The most common times that they don't have their bags with them is at lunchtime in the canteen where dd tells me that everyone leaves their bags on the a trolley/heap outside the canteen - talking to another friend, it is the same at her son's school too so I wonder if this is fairly common practice.

The school's only visible response to these thefts has been to tell the children in assembly that they had been getting a lot of complaints from parents about the thefts so the children need to be more careful securing their money (I have given dd advice too about not leaving her purse unattended so whilst I appreciate this is good advice, from the school in the context, it seems to have more than a whiff of victim blaming to me - 'well if you hadn't left it there it wouldn't have been stolen').

Has anyone successfully addressed a spate of thefts in their school? If so, what strategies did you use?
From the top of my head I would suggest one cctv camera outside the canteen or lockers?

I did ask dd why everyone didn't just leave bags in their form rooms but she said they go straight from lessons to the canteen as the queues are massive and if she wants any chance of getting to her lunchtime clubs in time (she does three per week) she just hasn't got time to go back.

So does anything work?

Euphemia Sat 20-Jun-15 06:56:48

DD's school has a cashless lunch system, so the pupils don't need money at school. I've not been aware of any problem with theft at her school.

Jo258 Sat 20-Jun-15 07:12:52

Yes there is a cashless system at dd's school. However lots of children travel from long distances on public transport and school buses so, for example, we have given dd an 'emergency £10' to keep for if her bus doesn't turn up etc.

Tbh I don't think it has been a particular problem before, it seems to have become problem recently.

Euphemia Sat 20-Jun-15 11:02:32

Could bags be kept locked in a classroom? A member of staff watches the pupils put them in, locks the door then it's not opened again until just before the bell goes for afternoon lessons?

Annunziata Sat 20-Jun-15 13:41:39

It's just daft to leave your bag unattended in a busy public place.

They should use their lockers, that's what they are there for.

exLtEveDallasNoBollocks Sat 20-Jun-15 13:45:01

Could she wear a small backpack, like the handbag ones? Or a wrist purse with the tenner in?

School shirt with a top pocket (you could fix a popper to it)? Fold in fabric purse in the waistband of her trousers/skirt?

CamelHump Sat 20-Jun-15 13:52:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CamelHump Sat 20-Jun-15 13:52:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FuzzyWizard Sat 20-Jun-15 14:04:17

Out in any other public place how do you think the authorities would deal with thefts like this?
The school can punish theives but ultimately leaving their bags unattended in huge heaps with lots of students going back and forth to collect things from them makes it very difficult to identify the culprits.

I don't think the school has really done anything wrong. I don't think it's victim blaming to recognise that they cannot catch the theives and offer advice to students that will help them to keep their money and valuables safe.

DoloresLandingham Sat 20-Jun-15 14:16:47

It really isn't victim blaming to teach pupils the unfortunate reality that unattended valuables are vulnerable. The school has already taken a very reasonable precaution against theft by installing cashless catering. Your DD needs a slim, discreet purse that she can wear around her neck under her blouse, or in a pocket, so that her emergency £10 is always on her person.

CamelHump Sat 20-Jun-15 14:17:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Jo258 Sat 20-Jun-15 17:50:32

Oh I agree the advice is good but I do think the 'there's nothing we can will do' policy seems a bit like 'tough shit kids!' they have offered no attempt (that they are letting us know of) to actually try and stop children thieving.

Yes I agree leaving stuff in a public place is stupid but this is in school where (in the scenario I outlined) dd hasn't got time to walk back to her classroom, secure her bag, get back, line up and then get lunch before lunchtime clubs and also hundreds of other students are doing the same.

I started this thread in the staff room to ask if anyone had found successful strategies for dealing with this problem in their school - any teachers who can offer an answer? Thanks.

Whichseason Sat 20-Jun-15 17:55:10

We don't really have an issue with this in our school. Are they made to leave their bags outside in a pile? If so the school are being unreasonable if not they should not be leaving anything valuable unattended.

TealFanClub Sat 20-Jun-15 17:56:05

hide the tenner better

CamelHump Sat 20-Jun-15 18:04:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

yearofthegoat Sat 20-Jun-15 18:05:50

Our students all have a locker where they are expected to keep their bags and the corridors containing lockers have security cameras on them. I can't remember the last time there was a theft.

TheTroubleWithAngels Sat 20-Jun-15 18:08:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Jo258 Sat 20-Jun-15 18:17:30

She can't take her bag in to the canteen, they aren't allowed to. She can carry her purse in and she does now but that isn't the point. I'm not asking how dd can avoid being a victim of theft -of course I have already told her all that.

I'm asking (on the staff room threads not Aibu if there have any successful strategies in other schools!

DoloresLandingham Sat 20-Jun-15 19:25:56

OP, I commented briefly upthread, but here's a fuller answer. I'm a secondary teacher.

My first school was in a very deprived area and had an endemic problem with theft. I'm afraid that I must agree with pp that really, the only way that we were able to address this was to remove all temptation from potential thieves. Pretty much everything was nailed down (laptops Kensington locked to the desk, for example) and staff and pupils alike learned not to leave anything, anywhere, ever. I had SD cards nicked from my laptop and a sentimentally valuable fountain pen stolen, almost certainly by a kid who didn't know how to write with it. The PE department were meticulous in their gathering and storage of valuables and changing rooms were kept locked unless pupils were actually changing in there, because expensive blazers kept disappearing.

Consider for a moment the measures that might have some impact. Children could have been routinely searched. CCTV was installed but for various reasons had to be restricted to communal areas, leaving classrooms and changing rooms vulnerable, and it was a big commitment for the site team to monitor and run the system and addition to their other responsibilities. Staff could have been placed to supervise 'hotspots' at all times. The problem is that all of these are either draconian or expensive, and some are both. As a teacher, you will know how tight budgets are and you can't possibly be suggesting that the school divert resources away from learning and teaching and towards security.

However, on a more positive note: if the location of the lockers is currently impractical then the school could consider redistributing them, or allowing pupils to choose a convenient location for their individual locker depending on their lunchtime activities. If a culprit is caught, then I have seen restorative justice used very effectively. The school could also proactively address the wider consequences of stealing and other crimes as part of their PSHE curriculum, but this could be slow and impact isn't guaranteed. People, including children, steal for lots of different reasons.

I hope that this is helpful.

Jo258 Sat 20-Jun-15 20:38:06

Yes that is an excellent post Dolores, thank you.

I would have expected some indication from the school that
a) theft is becoming a problem and they are aware of the issue
b) they are addressing it through PSHE and some sort indication of severe consequences if someone is caught
c) if there is one specific area of the school (this bag dump I mentioned outside the canteen) that either this is monitored by cctv or some sort of secure storage is installed there.

I like your idea about restorative justice and agree about the additional lockers (as above) so I will suggest both things although of course for them to work the school will have to admit there is a problem and want to do something about it, grr!

Dd's school is in an affluent area and has excellent facilities, I wouldn't say they are scraping around for cash and being forbidden from photocopying and laminating sheets being held under lock and key as some schools I have worked in! We are constantly being hounded,as parents, to pay for the prestigious new block they are having built, perhaps they could divert some of that to the ideas I have suggested but stopping children stealing from each other isn't quite as impressive I expect!
Would cctv require constant monitoring do you think or is it something which could be looked at should a student report a theft?

Oh and as a teacher, yes, I could possibly suggest that security is prioritised over, for example, new french text books because I think that students sense of safety and wellbeing are a very high priority too. I know budgets are always tight (goodness knows we are expected to deliver higher and higher results but with no additional funding) but this is important too.

Thanks again for your reply.

noblegiraffe Sun 21-Jun-15 08:51:19

Kids in my school leave their bags in a heap outside the canteen, but I don't think any of them would be so stupid as to leave valuables in them.

My school has blazers as part of the uniform though, so it's easy to put money and mobiles in pockets.

MythicalKings Sun 21-Jun-15 08:56:30

Could the bags be "guarded" by a prefect or trusted senior pupil on a rota system?

CamelHump Sun 21-Jun-15 09:15:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CamelHump Sun 21-Jun-15 09:23:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HagOtheNorth Sun 21-Jun-15 09:31:00

Like Delores, I worked in a primary that could have been a feeder to her school. smile
I had a money belt, small and soft, that I wore under my shirt with my notes, credit card and door/car key in it. I had a handbag that had less vital stuff in it, and I tried to keep that with me.
So for your DD's emergency tenner, I'd go for that.

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