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Education is way out of drug-related crime

PUBLISHED: 07:30 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:46 19 March 2019

Paul Hannaford visited Northgate High School on his workshop tour of the country  Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Paul Hannaford visited Northgate High School on his workshop tour of the country Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Rachel Edge

A reformed gangster who survived seven stabbings and nearly lost a leg to drugs believes many of today's safeguarding policies should be consigned to a drawer and forgotten about.

Paul Hannaford discussed his former life of crime and what should be done to stop others from following the same path  Picture: RACHEL EDGEPaul Hannaford discussed his former life of crime and what should be done to stop others from following the same path Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Paul Hannaford said egos often got in the way of teaching young people to avoid becoming a statistic of gang related violence.

Born in 1969, Mr Hannaford had dreams of being a professional footballer, but became involved with drugs at secondary school.

Growing up in East London and Essex, he was excluded from three schools and put in a pupil referral unit before taking up crime and becoming a gang leader at 21.

Mr Hannaford was stabbed seven times in gang clashes and almost died twice. After his drug use escalated to crack and heroin, he gave himself up to police, and following a stretch in jail, entered rehab and escaped a life of crime to become a motivational speaker, visiting schools to address pupils from year three to sixth form.

On a visit to Northgate High in February, Mr Hannaford, who nearly lost a leg to prolonged drug abuse and still has open wounds requiring daily treatment, said: “Some might say year three kids are too young to hear about it, but every kid is a potential customer to a drug dealer. They’re ruthless.

“When county lines drug dealers come to Ipswich, they see pound signs on kids’ heads.

“The rise in violent crime is down to a rise in people wanting to make money from selling drugs.

“There aren’t enough police to police our way out of it. We need to educate our way out of it.

“I find it hard to believe that some schools aren’t interested in knowing how drugs affect their communities.

“Egos get in the way. Parents have offered to pay for me to visit schools, but I then found out the head teacher thinks it’ll look like the school has a drug problem. They’re wrong. The problem is outside the school gates.

“Some current safeguarding policies need to be left in the bottom drawer and forgotten about.”

A group of Northgate pupils were among more than 120 from schools across Suffolk to hear Mr Hannaford speak at the ‘Making Good Choices’ conference at the University of Suffolk last year.

During Mr Hannaford’s visit, assistant head Dan Emery said: “It’s important for the pupils to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

“We have a problematic society. If we don’t start tackling it in schools, where are we going to tackle it?”

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