Teacher is stabbed going to pupil's aid

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A headteacher was in a critical condition last night after being stabbed during an attack outside his school.

Philip Lawrence, believed to be in his late forties, was injured when he went to the aid of a 13-year-old pupil outside St George's Roman Catholic School, in Maida Vale, west London, just after 3pm yesterday. Paramedics performed emergency surgery after Mr Lawrence managed to stagger back to the school.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "It appears that as one of the schoolboys left the school premises he was approached by a small group of youths. The teacher, who was in the vicinity, intervened. The man sustained a stab wound.The suspects are believed to have made off on foot.

"The male pupil, who was initially approached by the suspects, was found by police near by and was taken to hospital with head injuries."

Mr Lawrence was taken to St Mary's hospital, Paddington, where he was said to be in a critical condition and undergoing surgery. The 13-year- old boy he went to help was also being treated at the hospital.

The headmaster, known as a disciplinarian, was once praised in a schools' inspectors report for his "strong leadership skills". The father-of-three, who expelled 25 troublesome pupils in a clean-up drive, received the commendation in a report three years ago. In past interviews he has strongly defended his get-tough approach.

Police investigating the attack interviewed staff and many of the 11-16-year-old pupils. Over 400 children attend the school.

One local resident, who did not wish to be named, said he was shocked by the stabbing but was not surprised there had been trouble: "When I go to work in the morning there are kids hanging around smoking cigarettes and sometimes drugs. There is always a lot of fighting between different groups."

John Sutton, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, paid tribute to Mr Lawrence as a "valued and respected member".

Mr Sutton, whose association has more than 8,500 members, said: "This was his second headship in London and he is a very highly regarded and a dedicated man. His action was typical of any head doing his job. Any head worth his salt seeing an incident near the premises involving children would endeavour to stop it."

He said the attack was a reflection of the background of violence against which teachers worked although he stressed that for most children schools were a "haven of peace".

"I would emphasise that is not violence in the school. It is violence brought into the school from outside."

Cardinal Basil Hume, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, said in a statement: "I am shocked and saddened by such an appalling attack. This a major tragedy for a distinguished headmaster."

Police were last night still hunting for the gang of youths seen running away.