FIREWORKS misuse in the north east of Glasgow plummeted last year thanks to interventions from one of the city’s campus cops.

Pupils on Glasgow’s South Side are more confident in stepping in when there is the threat of violence in their school community.

Yesterday, head teachers from across the city heard of the benefits of having a dedicated police officer in their school.

When the scheme first began – in Shettleston’s Eastbank Academy in 2003 – there was pushback from parents who feared stigma attached to having a permanent police presence.

In the 17 years since, however, the joint project between Glasgow City Council and Police Scotland has seen officers become an integral part of school life.

Working in 25 out of the city’s 30 schools, they help raise attainment, close the poverty gap and support pupils in both pastoral and practical terms.

Glasgow Times:

An event for schools and police to share their experience of the campus police scheme heard from Brain Feeney, head teacher at All Saints Secondary, and campus officer Barry O’Neill.

Mr Feeney told how Mr O’Neill stepped in quickly to prevent misuse of the school’s fire alarm – and how this intervention created benefits for the wider community.

He said: “We were looking at a series of incidents that occurred in October 2018.

“A firework had been set off just around the school door and smoke wafted back in, setting off the fire alarm.

“Unfortunately, sometimes you give pupils an idea... and we very quickly had three false fire alarm activations.

“Barry had just joined us in August 2018 and we were looking for a way of dealing with this issue in a different way.”

The police officer learned the names of around 14 pupils who were possibly involved in the problem and set up an early intervention strategy with them.

He used his contacts to have fire fighters from Springburn fire station visit the school and talk to pupils about the dangers of what they were doing.

The PC said: “From that, I now have a group of 12 to 14 pupils who I work with on a one-to-one basis and a smaller group I do intensive work with, playing a major part in their school lives and their lives in the community.

“I bring the parents in to that as well. The idea is to enhance the lives of young people.”

Glasgow Times:

Mr Feeney said there was a reduction last year around Bonfire Night in the number of fireworks being set off in the community.

And the Barmulloch school has had no more false fire alarms.

For teachers and campus officers, one of the challenges is how social media, such as Snapchat, is used to share information away from the eyes of adults.

At Rosshall Academy, campus officer PC Racheal Gallagher introduced a programme called Mentors in Violence Protection (MVP).

Ms Gallagher, who has been in the school for two years, said: “When I first started there was issues of violence in school – there is no getting away from that.

“Some can be minor and some more serious but I wanted to bring in a new way of dealing with that.

“MVP is about the bystander approach. One kid will know hundreds of information but not be sharing it.

“Information will be on Snapchat but no-one is sharing that.

“MVP encourages pupils to do the right thing and share information. They know that one person can do something with that information that will prevent something happening.”

From an initial training programme attended by the campus officer and four teachers, senior pupils are now trained to give the MVP training to younger pupils.

And two senior Rosshall teenagers have made a video that now forms part of the official MVP course.

Glasgow Times:

The police officer said: “It is by far the best thing I have done at Rosshall.”

Jim Wilson, head of service in education for Glasgow City Council, said some of the remaining city schools are also considering bringing campus police officers on board.

Paid for by Police Scotland and the schools, over the past four years there has been an effort by education services and police to make the campus cop role more structured.

Police Scotland’s Superintendent Gary I’Anson said: “It’s very much designed to be a supportive role in schools.

“It’s also about building relationships and breaking down barriers between pupils and the police.

“Our officers work in school but they also work in the local communities the school serves, so there is a very rounded approach to how they support the whole school community and beyond.”

While Mr I’Anson and Mr Wilson both acknowledge the benefits of campus police officers are difficult to quantify, they know from feedback from schools that the scheme works.

Mr I’Anson said: “We know it works because we still have campus police officers in schools.

“Resources are constrained and if the campus police officers were not of benefit then we wouldn’t have them in schools any more.

“That we have them in 25 out of 30 of the city’s schools speaks for itself.”