source: The Guardian
published: 17 March 2019

Sally Weale shines a light on the British Red Cross initiative Life Not Knife (‘It’s about confidence’: pupils learn how to cope with attacks). While training teenagers in self-defence and first aid is to be welcomed, much more is needed, and this crisis cannot be left to charity.

In education, we need to start younger too. In some areas, there are huge pressures on children to be drawn into gangs. Many parents speak of this as a nightmare. What assistance should be given to primary school staff and parents to feel confident in opening up these conversations with 10- and 11-year-olds? Can we help children recognise the signs of grooming and build a culture of resistance to the temptations of initially “easy” money?

In 2000, the death of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor led me to research the lure of gangs for my novel Web of Lies. An 11-year-old London schoolboy later wrote to me that “the similarities between the lives of Femi [the main character] and myself left me wondering.

Wondering how two people can be so similar, wondering how you know so much what young boys are going through”. His strong identification with my Femi was troubling, yet also pointed to the potential for stories to open a “safe” space for discussion and debate. Other writers for young people have also written about the challenges of violence and gangs.

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