Are parents informed when a police officer speaks to a child in school?

The short answer to this question is, police officers do not need to inform parents and consent does not need to be sought before speaking to a school pupil, unless a more thorough search is going to be conducted (which would also need an appropriate adult).

Best practice

In London, the Safer School Partnership protocol states “There is no obligation placed on the police to inform parents when their child has been spoken to. However, it is good practice to do so. This eliminates the possibility of the wrong information getting to the parents”. Therefore, Safer Schools Officers are encouraged to speak to parents as soon as possible after a pupils has been spoken to, to clarify the reasons and not worry them.

However, schools may want to inform parents first, so the police should respect that decision, unless something serious happens where they have to deal immediately (which is fairly rare inside schools).

Loco parentis and duty to record crime

What has to be remembered is the school has loco parentis during school time so they can make decisions around how a pupils behaviour is dealt with. However, there are potential consequences when the school ask a police officer to get involved with anything that is a crime. That's because the police have a duty to record and investigate crime - set by Home Office counting rules - which opens the debate about needlessly criminalising young people in a school setting.

It may be that the school adds a few lines to their behaviour policy to explain to parents what will happen if a police officer speaks to their child in school. I would advise schools to consult with parents on the matter, laying out the pros and cons. However, the police’s focus (particularly Safer Schools Officers) should be on achieving the right outcomes for young people, but it does restrict the police if they can’t speak with young people in the school setting - in that learning environment. Otherwise, they may have to do it at their home or at the police station.

Decision making on outcomes

If a school requests that the SSO gives a pupil 'words of advice' on a matter, then the police will try and accommodate unless there are specific reasons not to. An example could be an instance of bullying where the SSO decides it’s not going to add anything having a police officer involved because sometimes it diminishes the impact for more serious incidents involving crime).

Equally, the police may decide that an incident should be dealt with in another way, either through a restorative approach or in more serious cases, arrest, caution or charge. Generally, an outcome is decided between the police and the school as a partnership so good outcomes can be achieved for all pupils involved, but there is always nuance to consider. Through data analysis of crimes recorded in and around schools in London in 2022, 96% were dealt with outside of the criminal justice system, which is testament to the good work of Safer Schools Officers.


Steven Sweeney BSc (Hons), MSc

Metropolitan Police Service, Frontline Policing Delivery Unit, Youth Policy Team