Education bosses have agreed to place a full time police officer in all eight secondary schools in the Falkirk area.
The decision taken by members of Falkirk Council’s education committee today means it will be the first local authority in Scotland to have campus police officers in every one of its secondary schools, with officers scheduled to be in place before the start of the summer holidays.
Councillors denied the initiative would create eight mini police stations when that possibility was suggested during the meeting.
Braes, Denny, Larbert, Falkirk and Grangemouth high schools already have police officers, now Bo’ness, Graeme and St Mungo’s high schools will have them too.
Police Scotland will fund six of the police officers while the council will pay for two – at a cost of £84,000, with cash from the Children’s Services revenue budget and each school chipping in £9300 from their own devolved budgets.
The move was praised by members, who listened to the benefits school-based police officers had brought to Denny High, including a reduction in exclusions at the school and less youth offending in the area.
Education spokesman Councillor Alan Nimmo said: “You’re talking about £9000 from each school and I think that’s money well spent. It’s obviously a worthwhile service.”
Council Leader Craig Martin said: “It provides a good link between education and police in the community.”
Councillor Robert Spears wanted more information about the initiative, saying the report raised more questions than answers.
He said: “All we have really been told is we are going to have police officers in the schools. Are we having a mini police station in the school? Will they have an office? That will have an ongoing financial implication. Do the schools have room for these police officers?
He was informed all the school police officers would have a separate room and that the only extra cost would be £2000 for information technology expenses which Police Scotland would pay for.
Councillor David Alexander had concerns about the lack of debate about the subject, stating the money could have been set aside to provide more supported learning assistants rather than a police officer.
He said: “There are benefits to having police officers in schools, but there are also benefits to having more classroom assistants as well. We would have liked to have had a debate on this and heard from head teachers about it.
“There seems to have been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.”
Denny High School has reported great success with its school-based police officer initiative, which began in 2009.
Head teacher Stephen Miller said: “It improves the outcomes of pupils in the school and helps develop relationships between pupils and police. Many pupils have considered joining the police themselves after seeing what a positive role model a police officer can be.
“We have also seen a 30 per cent reduction in youth disorder in the local community.”
Last year The Falkirk Herald reported on the presentation PC Iain Taylor gave Denny High pupils on the dangers of legal highs.
PC Taylor, who has been in place at Denny High since January 2015, said: “I have pupils coming to speak to me about an assortment of things. I’m thoroughly enjoying my job there and see the benefits it brings.”