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Islington school’s self-defence lessons for 7-year-olds

Pupils learn how to combat knife attacks in bid to tackle ‘fear culture’

01 November, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Copenhagen pupils Aaryan, 7, and Eyad, 8, learning self-defence techniques

A PRIMARY school is teaching children as young as seven self-defence tactics in case of a knife attack in a bid to tackle a “fear culture” which prevents their parents from allowing them to go to the park.

Copenhagen Primary School invited a mixed martial arts expert and a charity battling the causes of knife crime to speak to pupils from Years 3 to 6 on Wednesday.

The children, aged seven to 10, learnt what was best to do if approached by someone ­carrying a knife and they were given talks about how to chose a “better path”.

Amardeep Panesar, headteacher at the Treaty Road school, said: “In our Copenhagen community, the parents have a fear culture and don’t let children out. Even in terms of going to the local park, it is a frightening event for them and I am not surprised.

“So in terms of educating the children, we need to teach these kinds of techniques to survive so that they can enjoy all the things that other children enjoy.”

From left: Give Back London charity founders Ejiro Okosieme and Chiney Foog; martial arts expert Yan Sophokleous; and Simon Carson from the Met Police

The school, off Caledonian Road, has been transformed under Ms Panesar’s leadership into an Ofsted-rated “good” school, after it received an “inadequate” rating in all categories in 2013. Many of its pupils come from the Caledonian Road area. The community was devastated earlier this year when 17-year-old Nedim Bilgin was stabbed to death near Tilloch Street.

Ms Panesar added: “To me there is a fear factor in this particular community, they are absolutely frightened to let their children out and these children could be losing part of their childhood.”

The knife-crime event was organised by the Give Back London (GBL) charity. They brought in mixed martial arts expert Yan Sophokleous who taught the children to hit an attacker in the private parts and run away if someone puts a knife to your neck.

Mr Sophokleous said: “Adults forget how much these children know. When I was growing up, every day something happened. You have an older brother or cousins, you have heard stories you shouldn’t have heard, maybe you should have been asleep, a knife came out. That becomes part of your reality.”

Ejiro Okosieme, who co-founded GBL, said: “Year 5 and 6 is basically the starting point to children’s transition to what could be a bad path. If we can stop it there, we could save lives.”

Fellow GBL founder Chiney Foong said: “It’s unfortunate that we have to come in at this age but we want to get them before they get to an age where they already are involved in crime.”

Simon Carson, of the Met Police, also spoke to the children at the school. He said: “The amount of young people who are being stabbed, there are going to be children here who have siblings, cousins or friends on estates who have been caught up in knife-crime.”

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