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Educating young people about knife crime through peer led Learning

September 29, 2021

Sheffield Hallam University is the home for the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice – a vibrant and innovative, leading centre for social justice and human rights. The main activities run by the centre include research, global engagement, impact on policy, professional training, and advocacy. Its values are those of widening access to justice and education, the promotion of human rights, ethics in legal practice, equality, and respect for human dignity in overcoming social injustice. The Helena Kennedy Centre’s scope of expertise covers human rights, criminology, law, policing, and probation and work on high-profile projects in a variety of human rights and social justice areas.

The Helena Kennedy Centre is also dedicated to joining the fight against knife crime. One of the centre's projects aims to tackle knife crime by educating young people in Sheffield. Students who are studying on both law and criminology courses at Sheffield Hallam University develop interactive and challenging materials, resources and classes that they then deliver to schools in Sheffield to engage young people in discussion about knife crime and joint enterprise. Pupils learn about the law, their rights, where to go for help and support, and practice scenarios. This supports a peer-led approach to learning as the majority of our undergraduates are young adults. A high proportion of our students are from widening participation backgrounds, and large numbers of students live in South Yorkshire. This means that some of our students will also have lived experience relating to this issue. By working on the schools projects, this means that undergraduates themselves are gaining more knowledge about knife crime and joint enterprise, and are able to engage in honest dialogue with the school pupils about the experiences they may be having, and to find out more about what happens to them.

Thanks to partnerships with external organisations, students have a chance to find out more about the knife crime situation outside of Sheffield and learn from the experience of on-the-ground workers, as well as ex-offenders and victims themselves. One of the special seminars was led by Blair Adderley, a former knife crime victim who currently works on the Ubuntu Police- Youth Roundtable project London, which aims to improve relations between young people and the police. In his work, Blair draws from his own experience of negative encounters with local police officers.

As a result of student exposure to the issue, a number of our criminology students have gone on to successfully complete placements with local charities who work with young people who are vulnerable to becoming involved in knife crime. Placements are also hosted by South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, a multi- agency initiative adopting public health approaches to violence reduction.

The teaching team and our students have adapted really well to working remotely throughout COVID-19. We are therefore currently seeking organisations to work with who may have a current issue that they would like student support with. Students work in small teams to respond to a brief which has been provided to them by an external organisation. Students engage with academic and policy research to provide an evidence-based solution to a real workplace issue. They produce a poster to summarise their research and take part in a group presentation to explain and justify their chosen approach. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact Nichola Cadet.

As our work continues, we are honoured to be able to join forces with Bruce Houlder QC, launch a Sheffield arm of the Fighting Knife Crime London and continue to educate and raise awareness on the issue of knife crime. We will continue to support our students to work on the initiative, which means that students are able to develop their civic responsibilities, employability skills and make a difference to society.

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