Avon and Somerset’s police and crime commissioner is calling for “youth service” to become a part of the national curriculum.

Mark Shelford (Conservative), who was elected as police and crime commissioner in 2021 and is standing for re-election next month, said that making schemes such as cadets and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme a compulsory part of education could keep young people out of gangs and reduce youth violence.

Mr Shelford said: “The idea is that you take the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, the military and police cadets, and scouting and guiding and you make them part of the national curriculum.

“Each school doesn’t have to do each one of them, but the school has to offer some of them.”

A recent University of Northampton study identified joining the cadets with reduced vulnerability to criminal organisations, improved resilience, and better performance in school and employability and career prospects.

Mr Shelford, who was a cadet when he was in school, said: “The reason why these things are so good is it gives the young a view of aspiration and ambition. It gives them that teamwork and starts to replace what the gangs are offering at the moment.”

The area has been rocked by several shocking stabbings in the last year. The violence reduction partnership, run by Mr Shelford’s office in collaboration with the five local councils in Avon and Somerset, is currently working to reduce youth violence, with each council working with education, health, probation, social care, and youth justice services on education and interventions in their areas.

But Mr Shelford said: “Generally, people who have been excluded from school get onto the radar of the violence reduction partnership and alternative provision. My view is that is too late.

“It needs to be before they get excluded so we can keep them in school.”

Mr Shelford said he had a “lightbulb moment” that schemes getting young people involved in working in the community already existed and could be scaled up. He said that although many students had the option to take part in Duke of Edinburgh or the cadets, but that people did not always take part and peer pressure could push people towards gangs.

He said: “If it’s part of the national curriculum, it’s not a choice. It’s the same as Maths or English.”

He hopes a pilot scheme could be launched in Avon and Somerset and rolled out nationwide if data suggests it is working.

Mr Shelford said he had spoken to the people who run the cadets in the South West region and to the armed forces minister, but wanted members of the public supportive of the idea to write to their MP and police and crime commissioner so he could prove to the government that the idea had public support.

The police and crime commissioner elections for Avon and Somerset happen on May 2. Those who wish to cast their vote in person will need to bring photo ID or a Voter Authority Certificate.