HIGH schools are inviting ex-prisoners to speak to pupils to deter them from crime and violence.

One East Lancashire school signed up to the scheme this week asked speakers to come in and discuss knife crime in the wake of the death of teacher Ann Maguire who was stabbed in Leeds on Monday.

The scheme which sees youth workers, victims of crime and ex offenders give talks, has visited schools including Blackburn Central High School, Witton Park High School and Marsden Heights Community College in Nelson.

Deputy headteacher at Blackburn Central High School Maj Ditta said the school felt it was important to educate pupils about knife crime following the tragic death of Mrs Maguire.

The school uses the Preston United Youth Development scheme, a community group which works with ex-offenders and visits 12 schools around Lancashire.

The scheme also includes a specific project to deter young people from joining gangs and carrying weapons.

After youth workers from the scheme visited the school to discuss knife crime this week, Mr Ditta said they had also recieved visits from ex gang members and women who had been exploited by gangs for sex.

He said: “We have had a plan to involve speakers, through a scheme in the school in place for some time, but we decided to bring some things forward.

“Because of what was happening in Leeds we spoke to our Preston United partners to access some speakers who could talk about knife crime.

“We want the teachers to see that the leadership team take this threat very seriously. The children said that nothing like that could happen here. It’s nice to hear them say that but I told them that you never know.”

Project Manager Omar Khan said: “The children at BCHS were terrific and some of them were saying they would even protect their teacher if they were threatened. It is good to talk about this kind of thing and educate the children.

“We have had some ex-offenders, former gang members and victims talk to pupils too and it always gets a really good reaction. Young people listen to real life experiences and they want different perspectives.”