pounds 50m needed for children's safety

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The Independent Online
Ministers must pledge up to pounds 50m to make schools secure in the wake of the Dunblane tragedy and the killing of head teacher Philip Lawrence, head teachers said last night.

As a report on school security, commissioned after the stabbing of Mr Lawrence outside his north-London school last December, was published yesterday there was growing controversy over the government's willingness to pay for the measures it suggests.

Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, accepted all the recommendations of the report and promised that money would be made available in due course, but the heads said emergency funds should be found immediately.

The working group reviewed its report after the shooting of 16 pupils at Dunblane primary school in March.

The report calls for police powers to search for weapons on school premises, a move already before Parliament as an addition to a Private Member's Bill, and for carrying a weapon in a school to become a criminal offence. It also suggests a change in the law which would allow intruders in schools to be arrested. New schools, it says, should be built with extra attention to security and Home Office funding for closed-circuit televisions should be considered sympathetically.

However, any new money is likely to come under the Grants for Education Support and Training programme, Gest, in which local authorities must supply 40 per cent of the funds. It would not be available until the 1997- 98 financial year.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said last night that the cost of implementing the report could come to between pounds 500 and pounds 2,000 per school. Between pounds 25m and pounds 50m should be made available immediately, he said, adding: "I am very disappointed that the Secretary of State has back-pedalled and is hiding behind the Treasury by repeating the age-old rubrick that it depends on competing priorities."

Mrs Shephard said the Government would provide a "substantial sum" of "new" money, though it would not be available immediately. "I believe we shall be able to meet what the working group on school security wants to see," she said.