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Evaluation of Campus Police Officers in Scottish Schools

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5 THE IMPACT AND EFFECTIVENESS OF CAMPUS OFFICERS

Key Points Summary

  • Educational staff and pupils had largely positive feelings towards their campus officer. However, for some pupils, this positive attitude did not extend to the police as a whole.
  • Educational staff and campus officers also felt that this role had successfully:
  • provided positive role models to pupils
  • improved information sharing between police and educational staff
  • reduced serious indiscipline, physical violence and gang activity in case study schools.
  • increased the feeling of safety at school for pupils and staff
  • improved the way complaints made by the local community about pupils are handled
  • In several cases, the campus officer was shared between more than one school. As a result, these officers had increased pressures on their time and did not achieve the same impact as officers dedicated to a single school.
  • In some schools the campus officer accompanied the Education Welfare Officer on home visits to speak to parents of truanting pupils. There was no evidence to suggest that this had a positive effect on attendance rates.

5.1 In this chapter, the findings around the impact and effectiveness of campus officers at the case study schools are outlined. It therefore aims to address the following research objectives:

  • assess the impact and effectiveness of the role(s) of campus officers within the school context and the wider community.
  • assess the impact and effectiveness of the role(s) of campus officers in working with and improving the lives of challenging children and children at risk.

Challenges associated with assessing impact and effectiveness

5.2 There were several challenges associated with assessing whether campus officers had an impact within the school and the wider community and/or improving the lives of challenging children and children at risk. Prior to commencing the project it had been hoped that the qualitative data, collected during fieldwork, would be complemented and supported by the analysis of quantitative data, such as police and national school statistics. However, the quantitative data was found in many cases to be limited or unavailable. Where appropriate this section discusses the consequence of these limitations in understanding the impact and effectiveness of campus officers in schools.

5.3 A set of success criteria was devised to evaluate the potential impact and effectiveness of campus officers using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. During the mapping stage, head teachers, campus officers and other educational staff were asked about the aims and objectives of placing a campus officer in the school as well as what they considered worked well about placing an officer in the school. The following success criteria were developed using these findings. So, a campus officer can be regarded as successful if s/he:

1. improved the pupils' relationship with the police

2. acted as a positive role model to pupils

3. improved information sharing between the police and education staff

4. reduced the following types of behaviour in school and/or in the local community:

a. bullying
b. serious indiscipline
c. physical violence
d. gang activity

5. increased the feeling of safety at school for pupils and/or staff

6. improved the way complaints (made by the local community) are handled by the school.

5.4 Generally, it can be assumed that the better a campus officer's performance on each of these criteria, the more successful the role of the campus officer in relation to the school, the wider community and/or improving the lives of challenging children and/or children at risk.

5.5 Figure 1 shows the type of data used to evaluate each of the success criteria.

Figure 1: Methods used to evaluate the success criteria21

Figure 1: Methods used to evaluate the success criteria

5.6 Despite some initial concerns before and immediately after appointment (discussed in paragraph 3.35) feedback from participants about the campus officer role was generally positive. In the remainder of this chapter the qualitative data, and where relevant the quantitative data, is explored in relation to each of the success criteria.

Success Criterion 1: Improved the pupils' relationship with the police

5.7 Most educational staff and campus officers felt that having a police officer regularly interacting and forging positive relationships with pupils had improved the pupils' relationship with the police. This was cited as one of the main benefits of the role.

5.8 Educational staff and campus officers were especially positive about the work the officers did with challenging children and children at risk. This included one to one work, group work and/or extra-curricular activities. There was evidence of this type of work in all case study schools, but in some there was a higher prevalence of this type of work.

5.9 There was also evidence of this type of work being conducted in comparison schools by members of educational staff or other agency staff so it does not have to be exclusively conducted by campus officers. However, if an objective of conducting this work is to improve the pupils' relationship with the police or because it is believed this work is better conducted by a police officer than another member of staff, then a campus officer is best placed to do it.

5.10 Some educational staff highlighted that challenging children and/or children at risk targeted for this work were sometimes from families where perceptions of the police were especially negative. Due to the increased level of contact the officer had with these children, staff and campus officers reported the greatest improvement in their perceptions of the police.

5.11 Some educational staff, other agency staff and campus officers also felt that by improving the relationships between pupils and the police, this work had filtered out improving the relationship between their parents and the police. Again, this was especially the case with pupils who the campus officer was likely to have more contact with - those children with challenging behaviour or considered to be at risk.

5.12 Most pupils enjoyed the contact they had with the campus officer. Pupils who interacted with the campus officer on a regular basis felt very comfortable around the officer and had few reservations about having a police officer stationed in school.

Everybody respects him and you can sit there and have a carry on with him, as if he was one of your pals. (A pupil)

5.13 Amongst some pupils it was apparent that positive feelings towards their campus officer did not spread out to other police in the area, about who they still had negative perceptions.

When you have a school campus officer here you feel more safe when he approaches you. When you are out on the street and some random police officer comes up to you, you feel nervous. (A pupil)

5.14 This could be seen as a limitation. However, it is possible that the effects of this work on pupil/police relationships may take more time to fully emerge.

5.15 In conclusion, findings from the qualitative research indicate the use of campus officers can be deemed a partial success in relation to this criterion. Educational staff and campus officers both felt that the relationship between the police and pupils had improved as a result of the role. However, despite this positive feedback, there was no current evidence that this positive contact with the campus officer affected pupils' views towards other police officers, although this may develop given more time.

Success Criterion 2: Acted as a positive role model to pupils

5.16 Some educational staff highlighted that they felt the campus officer acted as a positive role model to pupils. It was recognised that in deprived areas pupils may be less likely to have positive role models and that having contact with an officer on a regular basis was likely to be beneficial to pupils.

5.17 Educational staff and campus officers regularly highlighted the importance of the one to one work, group work and extra-curricular activities with challenging children and children at risk, as many of the children targeted for this work may never have had a positive role model (especially a positive male role model).

They have fostered really positive relationships with young people in the area, they are sought out for advice, they become a different kind of role model for many boys…one of the difficulties we have in our area is that our young men have no positive role models at all. (Educational staff)

5.18 In conclusion, educational staff felt that campus officers offered pupils a positive role model, especially in areas of deprivation where pupils may be less likely to have contact with positive role models.

Success Criterion 3: Improved information sharing between police and education staff

5.19 Educational staff and campus officers also highlighted the importance of improved information sharing facilitated by having a campus officer. This was considered by many to be one of the most important benefits.

5.20 Educational staff and campus officers felt that having better access to information held by the police had improved the welfare of pupils at the school as it meant they were better equipped to provide pupils with support.

5.21 Information provided by officers on the family background of pupils, and incidents that had occurred in the community, were seen as essential by educational staff and campus officers in providing context to effectively deal with challenging children and children at risk.

He is a valuable resource for us if you like, because he can bring information to us, which we wouldn't normally have. (Educational staff)

5.22 Educational staff and campus officers also highlighted how this information sharing helped identify children involved with offending behaviour in the community, which helped the schools to facilitate targeted work with these individuals.

5.23 In contrast to findings from the schools with campus officers, some headteachers at the comparison schools (usually those who had issues with behaviour in the local community spilling out into the school community) highlighted that the level of information sharing between the school and the police was something that should be improved.

...if for example, they [the police] are aware of something that has happened at the weekend, it might impact on the school, or if we become aware of information from the children about something going on in the community, it's not always easy to share that information. Someone on the premises obviously it would be much, much easier. (Comparison school headteacher)

5.24 Headteachers at some comparison schools, who did not seem to experience these issues, felt that improved information sharing between the police and the school would be beneficial but did not feel it was necessary to have a police officer on site.

5.25 However, headteachers in other comparison schools felt their relationship with the police fostered adequate information sharing practices, including the regular attendance of a community police contact at multi-agency meetings.

5.26SCRA data was explored using the number of referrals received annually by the SCRA from 2003/4 - 2007/8 22 (included in Appendix 6). This was because any positive change in this data may be related to enhanced information sharing.

5.27 Non-offence related referrals and offence related referrals were also explored.

5.28 It was only possible to explore this data for 3 case study schools and their relevant comparison schools as there was no existing data pre or post a campus officer taking up post for the other schools. This meant it was not possible to fully explore any data trends.

5.29 There were no clear patterns in the SCRA data when looking at data trends of these 3 case study and comparison schools before and after a campus officer took up post.

5.30 In conclusion, findings from the qualitative research indicate that the use of campus officers has resulted in improved information sharing between police and educational staff. Educational staff and officers both felt that this information sharing had allowed them to address welfare issues more effectively and allowed staff to conduct more targeted work when dealing with children with challenging behaviour or children at risk.

Success Criterion 4: Reduced the following types of behaviour in school and/or in the local community:

  • bullying
  • serious indiscipline
  • physical violence
  • gang activity

5.31 All campus officers were involved in tackling bullying, usually through a restorative practice approach or targeted work. Educational staff and campus officers felt this work had a positive effect on the level of bullying in the school.

5.32 Headteachers at comparison schools said they tackle bullying in a similar way to case study schools, with educational staff using a restorative practice approach and targeted interventions.

5.33 Some educational staff and campus officers, in case study schools, felt that it was valuable to have a campus officer conducting this type of work instead of educational staff as, for some pupils, it escalated the perceived seriousness of bullying.

5.34 Headteachers at comparison schools highlighted the difficulties in dealing with bullying via the internet that happened outside of school. This was an area where educational staff and campus officers cited the campus officer's involvement as a benefit as the officer could speak to pupils and parents about the effect of this type of behaviour on all those affected.

5.35 Most educational staff and campus officers felt that having an officer in school reduced the prevalence of serious indiscipline, physical violence and gang activity.

5.36 A commonly held view among educational staff and campus officers was that the campus officer's positive relationship with pupils reduced the likelihood of young people taking part in negative behaviour, especially amongst those children with challenging behaviour or children at risk. They felt that the increased level of contact with a campus officer (through one to one work, group work and/or extra curricular activity) helped develop a good relationship between the officer and pupils, with the officer acting as a positive role model. This helped divert or prevent these pupils from getting involved in negative behaviour. This was highlighted by educational staff and campus officers in schools that had a gang problem.

5.37 Another reason cited by some educational staff and pupils for the perceived reduction in negative behaviour was that pupils were less likely to get involved in as they were concerned about getting into trouble with the police.

5.38 Information sharing was also felt to be key in reducing serious indiscipline, physical violence and gang activity as a campus officer could feedback information about incidents that occurred over the evenings or weekends which would help to prevent incidents from spilling over into school. For example, if a campus officer heard about a fight amongst pupils in the community they could closely monitor these pupils in the school environment. This was especially the case in terms of dealing with gang violence, "the impact for us [of information sharing], in terms of dealing with the situation and being prepared for it, has been particularly significant."

5.39 In some schools, this information was fed back to inform further targeting of the work the campus officer did with challenging children and children at risk, completing the cycle. Figure 2 below shows this cycle of behaviour reduction.

Figure 2: Cycle of negative behaviour reduction

Figure 2: Cycle of negative behaviour reduction

5.40 Some headteachers interviewed at comparison schools also mentioned that there were sometimes issues that occurred over the weekend that could spill into the school environment.

5.41 It was clear that information sharing between the police and the comparison schools was not advanced enough for educational staff to be informed of any events in the evening or over the weekend that may effect behaviour in the school environment.

There is a community police officer, but not someone we contact on a regular basis, so I mean at the moment I couldn't even tell you what the persons name is. The reason for that is it changes quite a lot. (Comparison school headteacher)

5.42 Generally headteachers at comparison schools recognised that these situations could be more effectively handled if information sharing between educational staff and the police was improved. Headteachers varied in their opinions as to how this could be achieved. Most felt that information sharing would be sufficiently improved by the provision of a named contact in the local police force with whom they could regularly liaise, or by further developing existing relationships with the police. A few headteachers at comparison schools suggested having a campus officer on site as a solution.

Crime data

5.43 Crime data from 1999 - 2008 was explored, this data was provided by police forces for the case study and comparison schools (included in Appendix 7). The crime data was based on recorded crimes that occurred at the schools during school time and term time.

5.44 In most cases there were no clear trends in the crime data when comparing the data for the case study schools and the comparison schools pre and post a campus officer taking up post.

5.45 There was a reduction in the number of crimes recorded in 2 of the 11 case study schools after the campus officer had taken up post (Graphs 1 and 2). Comparison school data for the same time period did not reflect this reduction indicating that it may be partly due to the role of campus officer. It is worth noting that campus officers, in each of these schools, also performed particularly well on each of the success criterion. However, it is not possible to attribute any decrease directly to the role of campus officer.

Graph 1: The number of crimes reported per year (during school time and term time) in a case study school and its comparison school

Graph 1: The number of crimes reported per year (during school time and term time) in a case study school and its comparison school

Graph 2: The number of crimes reported per year (during school time and term time) in a case study school and its comparison school

Graph 2: The number of crimes reported per year (during school time and term time) in a case study school and its comparison school

5.46 In conclusion, it is not possible to attribute any decrease in the number of crimes directly to the role of the campus officer and this pattern only emerged in two of the case study schools.

5.47 However, a common view held by educational staff and campus officers was that the presence of campus officer(s) has reduced serious indiscipline, physical violence and gang activity in case study schools. They felt this was due to:

  • the officer(s) forging positive relationships with pupils that in turn reduced the likelihood of exhibiting, or getting involved, with such behaviour
  • having an officer conducting targeted work with challenging children and children at risk, as these pupils could be considered as being at greater risk of exhibiting, or getting involved in such behaviour
  • having a police presence in school which deterred pupils as they were concerned about getting into trouble with the police
  • increased levels of information sharing between educational staff and the police which helped stop incidents in the local community extending into the school environment.

Success Criterion 5: Increased the feeling of safety at school for pupils and/or staff

5.48 Several pupils stated that they felt safer in the school knowing a campus officer was there. However, some pupils often initially felt that the school must be "bad" to have an officer in it.

At first I didn't like a police officer in the school, but now I would rather…. I feel safer. (A pupil)

5.49 Some of the educational staff interviewed also felt that simply having the presence of a police officer in the school improved its atmosphere and made it feel safer.

5.50 Having an officer in the school also helped some staff feel safer, especially in those schools where there was (or had previously been) experience of fighting or physical violence. Some staff felt that by having an officer in the school they were less likely to have to intervene in potentially dangerous situations such as fights.

5.51 This finding was echoed in a small number of interviews with headteachers in comparison schools who expressed concerns about staff sometimes having to put themselves in situations where they may not have felt safe. However, this view was not commonly held by headteachers in comparison schools and was only expressed by headteachers at schools that had more frequent incidents of physical violence in school or issues with gang activity.

5.52 In conclusion, a common view held by educational staff, campus officers and pupils was that having a campus officer in school increased the feeling of safety for pupils and/or staff. It was clear that some educational staff were reassured by the campus officer(s) presence when dealing with incidents of physical violence.

Success Criterion 6: Improved the way complaints made by the local community about pupils are handled

5.53 Educational staff in some case study schools commented on the positive effect campus officers had on dealing with local community issues.

5.54 This was usually regarding complaints from local residents or businesses about the behaviour of pupils on their journeys to and from school or in lunch hours.

5.55 In some of the case study schools, the campus officer was involved in dealing with complaints from local residents about antisocial behaviour and/or offending behaviour. In general, local residents welcomed campus officer involvement as it gave them a consistent figure to deal with persistent problems, which they previously felt were not a priority for the school.

5.56 In several of the case study schools, this also involved working in partnership with local businesses. This included shopkeepers who experienced difficulties with pupils during lunch breaks, and bus/coach companies who experience difficulties with pupils on their journeys to and from school. Some of this work included restorative practices to help pupils understand the effect their behaviour was having on the wider community.

5.57 This element of the campus officer role was seen as important by educational staff, campus officers and members of the wider community at some of the case study schools as they felt it further enhanced the relationship between the police, the school and the local community.

5.58 However, headteachers in some comparison schools also mentioned that they had fostered good relationships with local businesses, in relation to dealing with complaints about pupils, using educational staff. It is therefore possible that this role could be completed by educational staff instead of a campus officer.

5.59 In conclusion, educational staff and local residents (at the schools where the campus officers conducted this work) felt the campus officers had a positive effect on dealing with issues relating to the local community as it gave residents a consistent contact point. However, it is possible that this role could be completed by educational or other agency staff instead of a campus officer.

The shared campus officer model

5.60 In a few of the case study schools, the campus officer was shared between several secondary schools.

5.61 Although the work of the officer was largely viewed favourably by educational staff and the pupils they had contact with, it was evident that in comparison with the single-school campus officers, these officers operated under more time restrictions as they had to divide their time between more than one school.

5.62 This factor was evident when speaking to pupils, who did not seem to be aware of the campus officer role unless they had been targeted for specific work with the officer. This is in stark contrast to pupils in schools with a dedicated officer who were more likely to be aware of their campus officer.

5.63 In conclusion, these time constraints diluted the role of the campus officer which was likely to reduce their performance on all of the success criteria.

Views on universal and selective deployments

5.64 Several stakeholders, educational staff and campus officers felt that deployment of campus officers should not be universal across all schools. They felt that deployment should be selective and based on police intelligence and the needs of the school and local community.

5.65 A contrasting, and less typical, perspective was that regardless of location, campus officers can benefit every school in Scotland because many of the issues they tackle (e.g. domestic and sexual abuse, alcohol, drugs, and child protection etc.) are experienced in all types of schools and communities.

5.66 However, there was a concern in the police sector, that universal deployment would result in officers becoming simply an 'extra pair of hands'; an additional school resource undertaking tasks which do not require policing skills and would be best undertaken by other professions.

5.67 Some police interviewees and stakeholders also questioned whether there would be enough police officers with both the required interest and skills for the campus officer role to fill the posts.

Alternative indicators: Attendance and exclusions data

5.68 Campus officers are only one of many strategies applied in schools which may affect attendance and exclusion. While they were not placed in schools to positively impact on rates of attendance or exclusion (which are monitored at a local and national level), it is possible this may be an unintended side effect. It is important to explore the data trends of the case study and comparison schools on attendance and exclusions data to see if there are any obvious effects, although as highlighted previously it is difficult to directly attribute any effects to the role of campus officers.

Campus officers and attendance

5.69 The attendance rate (%) per school year of the case study schools were compared to the comparison schools from 2003/4 to 2008/9 (shown in Appendix 8). The 2008/9 figures should be interpreted with caution as they were obtained before the data was officially published.

5.70 There were no clear patterns that emerged in any of the case study schools when comparing the data with their comparison schools.

5.71 The attendance rate had increased in several of the case study schools since the campus officer took up post but where this was the case, a similar increase had occurred in the comparison school. Indeed, in 6 of the case study schools, there was a larger increase in attendance rate (in the period after the campus officer took up post) in the comparison schools than in the case study schools.

5.72 Campus officers in several of the case study schools conducted work specifically targeting truancy. In these cases, the campus officer accompanied the Educational Welfare Officer ( EWO) on home visits to parents where it was deemed appropriate. A few of these officers also regularly looked at truancy hotspots to help reduce truancy.

5.73 In these schools, there was no evidence from the quantitative data that this work had an effect on attendance rates. Indeed, one of these schools was a school where there was a larger increase in attendance rate in the comparison school than in the case study school.

5.74 Contrary to these findings, educational staff and campus officers in these schools were very positive towards this part of the campus officer role. They felt that having an officer accompany an educational welfare officer on a home visit added gravitas to the visit, which in turn helped to encourage attendance.

5.75 In conclusion, there is no clear evidence that in schools where the campus officer accompanied the EWO on home visits, that this had an effect on the attendance rate.

Campus officers and exclusions

5.76 The cases of exclusions per school year in case study schools were compared to the comparison schools from 2003/4 to 2008/9 (shown in Appendix 9). The 2008/9 figures should be interpreted with caution as they were obtained before the data was officially published.

5.77 In most of the case study schools, there were no clear patterns in relation to the cases of exclusion in these schools and the comparison schools.

5.78 In 2 of the case study schools there was a clear reduction in the cases of exclusion, since the campus officer(s) took up post, whereas the data for the comparison schools either showed a smaller decrease or an increase (Graphs 3 and 4).

5.79 The data trend for another case study school was also positive (Graph 5) showing a continued reduction in the number of exclusions since 2004/5, despite a slight increase in 2008/9. In contrast, the number of exclusions in the comparison school had not decreased. However, there was no comparable data available pre the campus officer taking up post.

5.80 The campus officers in two of these schools (Schools 1 and 9) performed particularly well on each of the success criteria explored in this evaluation which may further support these findings. It is also worth noting that in the same two schools, a reduction in crimes was also recorded.

Graph 3: The cases of exclusion per year at case study school 1, compared to comparison school 1.

Graph 3: The cases of exclusion per year at case study school 1, compared to comparison school 1.

Graph 4: The cases of exclusion per year at case study school 8, compared to comparison school 8.

Graph 4: The cases of exclusion per year at case study school 8, compared to comparison school 8.

Graph 5: The cases of exclusion per year at case study school 9, compared to comparison school 9.

Graph 5: The cases of exclusion per year at case study school 9, compared to comparison school 9.

5.81 In conclusion, it is possible that campus officers in some of the case study schools may be having a positive effect on the number of exclusions but as stated previously, it is not possible to directly attribute any reduction to the work of the campus officer.

Conclusion

5.82 In conclusion, campus officers are likely to have the largest effect on each of the success criteria if they are deployed in schools where:

  • perceptions of the police are especially negative
  • pupils are likely to have a lack of positive role models in the community
  • there are higher number of children exhibiting challenging behaviour or at risk
  • issues from the local community sometimes spill over into the school community
  • the school is situated in an area with gang activity.

5.83 It is important to highlight that particularly positive findings emerged in two of the case study schools. In these schools there was a reduction in the number of crimes recorded and the cases of exclusion. Both of these schools also performed particularly well on each of the success criteria. Although no reduction in the number of crimes recorded and the cases of exclusion can be directly attributed to the campus officer, triangulation of these findings with performance on the success criteria provides important indicators for best practice.