Police officers are increasingly setting up bases within West Midland schools in a bid to crack-down on youth crime.

A total of 30 secondaries in the West Midland Police force area now have a permanent, full-time police officer on site and the figure is growing.

In the last week officers have established themselves at two schools in Small Heath in addition to one already operating at another secondary in the Birmingham suburb.

Police say the move, which is being encouraged by central Government, helps steer youngsters away from criminal activity and anti-social behaviour. However, critics last night questioned the growing trend.

Margaret Morrissey, chair of the National Confederation for Parent Teacher Associations, said: "Five years ago this would have been an outrage. Although we accept there is a problem with some children in schools, it is a very serious thing to say the only way this country can control children's behaviour is by bringing in the police.

"Before it snowballs out of all control, I think there ought to be some evaluation of what benefit it is having."

Liberal Democrat Shadow Children, Schools and Families Secretary, David Laws added: "It would be sensible to have much closer liaison between schools and police on issues such as road safety, and in order to break down the stereotypes which both young people and the police sometimes have of each other."

Young people are responsible for 40 per cent of crimes such as theft, burglary, robbery and violence. Last year the Government launched a push to encourage schools and police forces to work together to tackle youth crime under the Safer Schools Partnership scheme.

A uniformed officer has operated at Small Heath School since February.

West Midlands Police claims it has resulted in a 26.5 per cent reduction in crime in Small Heath and a 19 per cent crime fall in Bordesley Green.

Its success has prompted nearby Waverley and Holy Trinity to introduce their own school-based police officers last week.

Insp Nick Binney, who is responsible for the Bordesley Green, Small Heath and Heartlands area, said: "The police are well aware that if we are going to make long term impact on crime reduction the name of the game is to target the youth as young as possible. Teachers can identify the troublemakers.

"We want to work in partnership with parents and schools to divert them away from crime at an early age."

Since the launch of the Government's Safer School Partnerships in 2002, more than 400 schools now have them.

In the West Midlands, 18 schools in Birmingham have an on-site police officer, four in Wolverhampton, two each in Sandwell and Coventry and one each in Dudley, Kidderminster and Solihull.

Paula Roe, the West Midland's executive member of teacher union the NASUWT said: "It is sad we have to do this, but this is a way of highlighting that laws in society have to be obeyed."