Sheffield schoolchildren receive most important lessons they could ever have during Easter holidays

It might have taken place during the Easter break but it could turn out to be the most important lesson one group of Sheffield schoolchildren could ever have.

By Sam Cooper
Thursday, 04 April, 2019, 07:08

Tucked away in a room at Highfield Adventure Playground, in Sharrow, a group of 13 youngsters were taught about the dangers of knife and gun crime as well as how to react should the worst occur.

Wayne Allen, of Youth Achieve Real Development, ran the workshop which featured news clips of various stabbings in Sheffield and information on the law and punishment around weapon-enabled crime.

Wayne Allen, project manager Youth Achieve Real Development (YARD), pictured.

A total of eight people were fatally stabbed on the streets of Sheffield in 2018 and the session began with a hard-hitting compilation of news footage of various incidents.

It included footage from the scene where Jarvin Blake was fatally stabbed in Burngreave in March 2018 and was set to music by Sheffield youngsters encouraging people to ‘drop the knife’.

Wayne told the children: “A lot of people think it will never happen to them but in our area we have had more than our fair share of incidents.

“The whole point of showing you that video is that it’s not another city, it’s Sheffield, it’s our city, it’s our home.”

Wayne Allen, project manager Youth Achieve Real Development (YARD), pictured.

Throughout the session, children, who ranged in age from around 10 to around 14, answer Wayne’s questions and seem to be taking in the information.

He added: “If it wasn’t a problem that we thought was serious we wouldn’t be here now. The whole point of doing these workshops is to inform young people of the dangers and what happens if you are around people carrying knives or if you carry a knife.”

The session has one basic aim, which is displayed as part of the presentation: ‘If this workshop can help anyone in this room change the way they think or act then this workshop will be worth it’.

One part which caught the attention of everyone in the room, which also included youth workers and police officers, was when Wayne disclosed his own knife crime story.

Pointing to a scar on his left arm, he said: “I got stabbed in the arm. A knife went through there and came out the other side and that’s years and years ago and you can still see the scar.

“Believe it or not being stabbed there, I could have died and I owe my life to the guys who were around me and I definitely wouldn’t have kids and grandkids if it wasn’t for them.

“It’s definitely something I wouldn’t want anyone in this room to go through but after what we have seen in the city, having that little bit of knowledge helps.”

But, undoubtedly, the most shocking moment of the afternoon was when Wayne, who has been a youth worker for around 20 years, opened it up for children to share their own experiences of knife crime.

One boy, who must have been no older than 12, said his friend was ‘slashed’ in an attack and a girl said her friend’s cousin was stabbed.

Those 20 seconds not only demonstrated the stark reality of what is happening on the streets of our city but also the importance of such sessions.

Wayne finished the session by teaching the youngsters about possible sanctions and sentences for being involved in knife and gun crime.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “We are trying to get the message across to young people and if you are not on their level then it’s going to go in one ear and out of the other.

“We have got a duty of care to inform young people about the dangers and we’ve got to make sure that the content is tailored to them.

He added: “The main thing is that young people get the message in the quickest and simplest way.”