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Seven-year-olds armed with knives

Schoolchildren as young as seven are taking knives and other weapons into the classroom, research has revealed.

The Centre for Social Justice claims a climate of fear is gripping pupils at some of Britain's poorest schools, and it warns there is a "profound failure" in some institutions to deal with disruptive behaviour.

In its report, entitled No Excuses: A review of educational exclusion, it found nine-year-olds in one school regularly turn up wearing local street gang colours.

It states: "The extent to which pupils in some of our schools are feeling unsafe and the impact that weapon-carrying street gang activity and conflict is having on their behaviour is staggering.

"During evidence to the CSJ, the head of a primary referral unit cited a number of examples of seven to 11-year-olds being sent to the pupil referral unit for having brought knives into their primary school.

"Often the children said that they had brought the knives in because they were being bullied in school, to scare someone, or because they were being bullied by older children or, in one example, by someone's father, on their way home from school.

"One witness to our review informed us that some pupils who truant may be doing so because they are getting robbed or bullied on the way home from school."

The think-tank calls on the Government to embark on "radical reform on exclusion" as part of its drive to transform failing schools.

It comes after a speech by David Cameron on Friday in which he vowed to crack down on bad behaviour and bring "rigour" back into the classroom.

The CSJ's report recommends heads and teachers should receive special training in conflict resolution and police officers should be trained to work in schools with problem pupils.

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