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Bradford SAFE Taskforce

Grappling with inequality in the “wool capital of the world”

May 15, 2024

As part of the Department for Education-funded £30 million SAFE Taskforce programme, Bradford was identified as one of 10 areas nationally where youth violence presents a significant problem.

In 2022, Bradford was allocated £3.3 million by the DfE to bring together a group of local schools to reduce children’s vulnerability to serious violence. And so, led by Exceed Academies Trust the Bradford SAFE Taskforce was born. Under this bold, new initiative, a range of carefully curated, evidence-informed interventions have been commissioned across 18 schools in the city. These align with the YEF’s new guidance and all have the aim of improving children’s attendance, behaviour and engagement with their education.


The additional resources and support afforded by Bradford SAFE Taskforce are much needed, as the city is seeing an increase in suspensions, permanent exclusions and below-average attendance.

We’re increasingly seeing young people showing signs of withdrawal, refusal and defiance as early as Year 7, some of whom have already displayed these behaviours in primary. This is a challenging transition for young people particularly those who are not yet meeting age-related expectations in reading, writing and maths.

Anna Wallace, Commissioning Lead at Bradford SAFE Taskforce

The need to get children back in the classroom and re-engaging with their education is particularly pressing. The latest data shows that one in five children in Bradford are persistently absent, missing 10% or more of their lessons.

Breaking the cycle

To break the cycle, schools recognise the value that outside support and programme providers can bring. Through consultation with young people and communities, a lack of positive role models was identified as one of the key gaps in local services.

One initiative implemented to address this challenge is a gender-specific mentoring scheme. The programme sees girls, who are at the fringes of violence or coercive relationships, paired with women from the local community, who come into school to provide one-to-one mentoring support.

Structured mentoring programmes that foster trusting relationships, raise self-esteem and provide emotional support can make a big difference. Research shows that, on average, they reduce violence by 21% and all offending by 14%.

Other programmes, such as a character education programme designed to build children’s social and emotional skills, have been introduced. “A lot of the boys absolutely love it,” says Jeremy. “It’s somebody coming into school that they like. It’s somebody that they respect. It’s somebody who is not part of the school community.”

Jeremy and Anna perceive some unexpected benefits from the introduction of these programmes. “We expected that there would be improvements in daily behaviour,” says Jeremy. “But it provides an incentive to actually turn up. It’s improving the school environment as a whole and creating a buzz and a bit of excitement around the place. When it’s on, it changes the character of the day.”

Whilst the evaluation of the SAFE Taskforce programme is still in progress, the marked improvement in attendance of individual pupils offers the team at Bradford encouraging signs that it’s making a difference.

Bradford aerial shot

Breaking down barriers

Bradford SAFE Taskforce seeks to harness schools’ leadership, facilities and local networks to deliver timely and effective support to children who are vulnerable to violence. One of the primary advantages of this approach is that it brings services to where children go about their daily lives.

Schools’ relationships with families mean support can be extended to siblings, parents and carers if needed.

The approach also addresses logistical barriers. In Bradford, the cost and provision of public transportation and car ownership are variable and can hinder children’s and families’ ability to access positive activities and support. “It’s not so much that children and families are always difficult to engage. Sometimes the barrier is physically getting to the service or support”, Jeremy notes.

Across the 18 schools, school-based programmes funded through the Bradford SAFE Taskforce have so far reached over 1,000 children. It’s hoped the learning from the model’s development, implementation and evaluation will provide a blueprint for other schools looking to adopt evidence-based interventions to prevent children’s involvement in serious violence. And by doing so, help to replicate the positive experience described by this grateful parent…

‘…he actually wanted to come to school this week, he hasn’t tried getting a day off or saying he’s poorly, so that’s a massive turn around. He also mentioned some of his teachers are being much better with him which is also another huge positive. I just want to say thank you for coming and helping us, I couldn’t have done any of this without you’.

For more information about SAFE Taskforces, please visit:

SAFE taskforces – GOV.UK (