ARE our schools safe for staff and pupils?
That is the question which has come to the fore following the fatal stabbing of a teacher at a school in Leeds.
Ann Maguire, 61, was delivering a run-of-the mill language class at Corpus Christi Catholic College when a pupil lunged at her with a kitchen knife, stabbing her numerous times. The 15-year-old boy is being questioned by police.
The tragic attack marks the first time a British teacher has been attacked by a pupil in the classroom, proving just how rare a situation this is.
But the rarity of the incident makes it no less concerning.
“It’s a tragic, terrible thing which has happened, and, as a teacher, it does make you think,” said Neil Tilley, assistant head teacher at Paulet High School in Stapenhill.
Security is an issue of utmost importance for all schools, and those in this area are no different. At Paulet, for example, there is a steel fence around the site, visitors are signed in and out, and all staff wear ID badges. But Mr Tilley admitted it would be ‘impossible’ to guard against attacks of this sort.
“We are 100 per cent satisfied with our security, but nobody can really legislate for somebody bringing a knife in their bag. Short of frisking every child when they come into school, there is nothing we can do,” he told the Mail, adding that in 34 years of teaching, he could remember only one attack on a teacher – and that had not involved a weapon.
His views were echoed by Gordon Thornhill, who represents the National union of Teachers for South East Staffordshire.
He said: “Obviously it’s very important that everybody is secure and safe in school, and that includes people that are visiting as well.
“What’s happened in Leeds is so rare that it could not be taken as a measure of what the situation is. It could not have been expected. Nobody knows what was in that boy’s mind; it could have happened anywhere.
“That said, it should remind everybody that security matters in schools. It’s an opportunity for everybody to think again about their own security.
“This is not an issue which needs to concern people in the sense of being afraid.
“We should be careful and thoughtful, but not neurotic.
“If you take it too far, it stops being a school and becomes more like a detention centre.
Corpus Christi Catholic College was open yesterday, and a memorial service was held for the long-standing staff member. Police in the area were keen to stress yesterday that the sad attack was an isolated incident.
Each individual school is in charge of its own security measures, though guidance is available from the local education authority – the county councils for this area – if it is necessary.
In Staffordshire, schools are able to ask the county council for help with risk assessments if they are worried there could be a threat to staff and pupils, the Mail was tole.
A spokesman for Derbyshire County Council said: “We send our sympathies to the family, friends, colleagues and pupils of the teacher in Leeds who died yesterday. Events like the one in Leeds are very rare. We do issue a variety of guidance to schools around staff keeping themselves and others safe and this is accompanied by training.”
Threats from outside are the main concern for most schools, as Mr Tilley said.
At the Pingle School, in Swadlincote, security is a major concern.
Selina Morgan, business manager at the Coronation Street school, said: “The Pingle School has a security conscious culture. Identification badges are worn by staff, sixth form pupils and visitors. Children are trained in what to do if they see anyone on site without a badge.
“PSHE would raise awareness of all types of risk management including e-safety.
“Security cameras monitor the school site and we lock the gates during the school day to keep students safe. There is one entrance for visitors for additional security on the site.”
The Mail contacted a number of other schools in the area, but none responded in time.