CHILDREN as young as eight have brought knives into the classroom it has emerged, as new figures reveal that police have recorded almost 150 crimes involving weapons at North-East schools in the last three years.

Kitchen knives, knuckledusters, a meat skewer, a baseball bat and bleach are among the weapons to have been brought into schools in the region since 2017.

In total, police recorded a total of 147 offences since April 2017, while there was a 37 per cent rise in incidents between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

The figures were released following a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association.

Northumbria saw the highest number of incidents, with 84 since April 2017.

In County Durham, there have been 38 incidents, which included a ten-year-old being caught with a knuckleduster, an 11-year-old bringing in a pumpkin knife and a 13-year-old who took a steak knife into school.

Other weapons include bread knives, Swiss army knives, lock knives and bleach.

In the Cleveland Police force area there have been 25 instances of offensive weapons being found in school, with one 15-year-old taking in a meat cleaver and a 14-year-old being caught with a BB gun.

A spokesman for Durham Police warned youngsters that carrying knives could put them in greater danger.

He said: “Each case is dealt with on its own merits and the most proportionate outcome is decided upon.

“Our officers regularly carry out education and engagement work within the community, in particular in schools, to explain to people and educate them on the dangers and potential consequences of carrying a knife.

“Carrying knives or other weapons does not keep you safe. By carrying a knife you are putting yourself in much greater danger and are more likely to become involved in a violent situation, potentially getting injured yourself.”

The Northern Echo:

Theresa Cave, who has campaigned against knife crime since her son was stabbed to death in Redcar in 2003

Theresa Cave, from Redcar, who set up the Chris Cave Foundation after her son was stabbed to death in June 2003, said her organisation was looking into providing an education programme aimed at primary school pupils.

She said: “Children have been known to carry knives into school from as young as seven years old. It’s heart breaking.

“We are looking into providing a programme for primary school age as sadly we need to nip it in the bud at a much earlier age nowadays.

“Education is key. We are all about prevention and keeping these figures to a minimum.”

Across the region, 31 cautions were handed out, while two people faced charges for having a weapon on school grounds.

Not all the incidents involved school-aged children, with a 47-year-old caught with a knife in Cleveland and an adult over the age of 21 charged with having a knife in the Northumbria Police area.

Nationally, thousands of children have been caught carrying weapons in school, with suspects as young as four years old.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, argued that cuts to policing and local support services are fuelling problems.

He said: “These figures are grim but unsurprising and reflect a growing problem over the prevalence of weapons in wider society.”

He added: “The scourge of weapons has grown worse in recent years, and while there are a number of complex factors involved, a key issue has been cuts in policing and local support services for vulnerable families.

“Gangs have filled this vacuum and often pressure and groom young people into dealing drugs and carrying weapons.

“Schools are doing their best to tackle these problems, but they cannot possibly solve this issue on their own. They need more back-up in the form of well-resourced community support services and more investment in policing.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said society needs to be clear about what it is reasonable to expect of schools in terms of preventing serious violence.

“For schools, it’s about education and safety,” he said.

“A wider remit than that would be ineffective because the issues that underpin violent and antisocial behaviour extend far beyond the school gates.

"The biggest barrier to keeping young people safe is not a lack action from schools, it is a lack of funding for essential public services.”