Lessons for teachers on school security

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Teachers will be trained to deal with violent intruders, ministers promised yesterday.

Robin Squire, the schools minister, said that some of the pounds 66m being allocated for security would be used specifically for the purpose. But personal safety advisers warned that they should not be given lessons in self-defence.

Experts from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which is involved in a school security research project for the Government, said that training in self- defence could be worse than useless.

They were speaking outside a national conference on school security held almost exactly a year after the murder of the London headmaster, Philip Lawrence, which led to the establishment of a government working party on school security.

Tony Dickens, of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: "The message is about awareness and avoidance. It is not about self-defence.

"You can get hurt if you use self-defence. And then there is the question of what is `reasonable' force which you are allowed to use to defend yourself."

Instead, he said, it was better to train teachers in how to defuse aggression. Schools in Cumbria, for instance, used the strategy of sending a child to deliver a book to the teacher in the next class if either a pupil or parent threatened violence.

That meant that help was summoned and everyone calmed down.

Teachers interviewing difficult parents should always do so in a room with a glass panel and ensure that someone came in regularly to check all was well.

John Andrew, general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, agreed that teachers should not be "brave little heroes". And he added: "Part of the training has to be not only what to do but what not to do. There are circumstances where the best thing to do is to walk away."

Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, said: "No one can rule out any incident in any school.

"What all of us want to feel is that we have done all we sensibly, reasonably can - while keeping a school a happy and reasonable place."

She said the Government was prepared to consider changes in the law to give police any extra powers they might need to improve school security.

Research being carried out by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust with academics at Leicester University, is investigating the type of violent incidents which arise in schools. Mr Dickens said that he believed there was a considerable amount of under-reporting.