Attack confirms fears of teachers

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The Independent Online
The attack on St Luke's comes at a time when concern about school security has peaked, after a series of violent incidents in schools.

Headteachers last night attacked the Government for its delay in providing extra funds for school security.

Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, promised more money in May, after the report of a working party set up following the death of Philip Lawrence, the London headmaster who was stabbed to death. But she said it would not be available immediately.

Teachers recognise that it is impossible to protect all schools against lone attackers bent on violence, but the National Association of Head Teachers believes more could be done.

Heads reckon that pounds 50m is needed to pay for measures recommended by the working party, including closed circuit television cameras, intruder alarms, security fencing and security locks.

At present, schools have to bid with each other for grants to install closed circuit television.

Rowie Shaw, a spokeswoman for the association, said: "This money should be available for all schools. This kind of tragedy can occur in any school in the country and it is no reflection at all on the school that this has happened."

David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, emphasised that better security alone would not solve the problem.

"While improving school security is important, it is also essential that the potential attackers are identified. There must be the closest co-operation between GPs, hospital staff, police and the probation service, rather than relying on fortress schooling."

Robin Squire, the schools minister, said money for security was the highest priority.

"We are doing everything we can. Can I also, as a parent, reassure parents that this ghastly incident was not typical and that schools remain overwhelmingly safe and are getting safer."

A new law to come into force shortly will make it a criminal offence to carry an offensive weapon on school premises.

Eamonn O'Kane, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Tragically this event seems to underline the points that we and others have been making for some time, which is that security for schools is going to have to become a priority"