Violence, crime and drug use widespread across colleges, says Unison

Violence, crime and substance misuse are widespread across colleges, with students regularly carrying weapons and drugs, according to research.

Unison said a survey of 780 support staff in further education and sixth form colleges found seven in 10 reported that drug abuse among students was a problem.

A third said crime involving weapons was a concern, while a fifth believed gang culture was a problem at their institution.

Three in 10 staff surveyed have had to deal with students who brought drugs into college and two fifths have had dealings with students who are under the influence of drugs, the survey found.

Staff described routinely finding weapons such as knives and guns as well as machetes and hammers.

Injuries reported included a member of staff being stabbed in the back with a screwdriver and a student suffering multiple fractures and concussion.

Drugs regularly found inside colleges included cannabis, cocaine, ketamine, MDMA and the so-called “zombie” drug Black Mamba, said the union.

Unison said its research, released at the union’s annual conference in Brighton, revealed a “disturbing” picture of violence and substance misuse by young people in colleges.

Support staff surveyed included canteen workers, learning support assistants and librarians.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Dangerous behaviour needs to be tackled to ensure students and staff are safe and colleges remain secure environments for young people to learn and thrive.

“Students who think they need to carry weapons for protection or come to college intoxicated are putting their own futures at risk.

“The tremendous strain placed on college staff means they’re forced to put safety and discipline over students’ academic development.

“College leaders must do more to ensure colleges are inspiring, safe places for all.”