There is relatively little research looking at the views of children and young people about the police but improving confidence and experiences of contact with the police is a priority identified by the Association of Chief Police Officers. Early contact with the police is an important way of helping to shape attitudes and increase understanding among young people about the role of the police. Yet the police service in England and Wales faces a 20% funding cut by 2014/15, almost inevitably putting at threat the outreach work it can do with young people.
We worked with Sussex Police to evaluate their INSPIRE Education Programme. This is a cutting-edge programme operating across 78 secondary schools and 446 primary schools. 21 NSO’s (Neighbourhood Schools Officers) deliver classroom-based lessons with the aim of educating children and young people, in order to prevent them from becoming victims or offenders of crime. The lessons cover a range of issues including risky behaviour and making safe choices through to drugs, knife crime, cyber-bullying and driving within the law.
Working with 10 schools involved in the programme, our evaluation examines the success of the programme in terms of how it increases the knowledge and understanding of these issues, as well as how it helps to shape attitudes towards police and the law. It also explores key aspects of process and delivery, identifying areas for potential improvements. The research utilises a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, which include a pre and post-lesson survey, lesson observations, small group discussions with students, interviews with school staff and discussions with officers delivering the programme, to provide an in-depth and comprehensive review of the programme.