BRIDGING the gap and breaking down barriers between young people and the police is the aim behind introducing a police presence in schools.
The Shoreham Academy and Durrington High School have police community support officers (PCSOs), known as a safer schools officers, funded jointly by the school and Sussex Police.
Their job includes deterring crime, acting as a liaison between the school and police, and being there for students to come and talk to them about any problems ranging from bullying to family issues.
Reporter Alex Jenkins spoke to PCSOs Kevin Brown and Karen Shaw to find out more about their role and why they find it so fulfilling.
‘A massive benefit’
PCSO Kevin Brown started his role at Shoreham Academy, in Kingston Lane, last summer after his daughter became ill and he needed to work locally.
Previously, he worked as a Worthing town centre PCSO.
Originally, his role at the academy was going to be just for the summer term before he started a job with the British Transport Police (BTP).
However, due to a recruitment freeze his move to BTP did not happen – something PCSO Brown has said turned out to be a blessing.
He said: “It was a great thing because the school really is just amazing.
“It was the best move I have ever made.”
PCSO Brown said it was the contact with the students which really made him feel his job was worthwhile.
“There is always something to do that somebody will benefit from,” he said.
“A lot of people may think a police presence at school is a worrying thing and a bit scary, but it is not at all.
“It is about helping them and making sure they leave with GCSEs and not a criminal record.”
His day-to-day work includes dealing with truancy and petty crime, helping teachers with disruptive pupils, and supporting students if they have any problems.
He is also involved with the Adur Youth Information shop in Lancing.
PCSO Karen Shaw took up her role at Durrington High School, in The Boulevard, five years ago.
She said: “I wanted a more fulfilling role and this came up and I thought I could do that.
“There is not average day and that is why I like the job.”
She said the school had not employed her because there was a high level of crime but because it was important to have a good relationship with the police.
“In school I am here to stop students becoming criminals before they go down that route,” she said.
PCSO Shaw said she had really enjoyed getting to know the students and worked hard to try to memorise the majority of student’s names.
She said one of the most rewarding things was seeing the students leave the school with good grades and a good idea of what awaits them in adult life.
Shaun Allison, deputy head teacher, said the school was lucky to have PCSO Shaw, adding: “PCSO Shaw is a highly valued and important member of the DHS staff team.
“She is an invaluable link between the local community, police force and school.”