Pupils held after boy, 15, dies in school clash

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The Independent Online

Two boys, both 14, were arrested yesterday after a 15-year-old boy collapsed and died yesterday, apparently during a fight in school. The victim, David Sandham, was said to have been in a group of pupils in an annex building at the back of Broadoak comprehensive, in Partington, Greater Manchester, when a fight is said to have started.

Two boys, both 14, were arrested yesterday after a 15-year-old boy collapsed and died yesterday, apparently during a fight in school. The victim, David Sandham, was said to have been in a group of pupils in an annex building at the back of Broadoak comprehensive, in Partington, Greater Manchester, when a fight is said to have started.

It is understood David and at least one other pupil may have had a disagreement last Friday and he was absent on Monday, but tensions are believed to have been reignited yesterday. Many of the school's 500 pupils left in tears yesterday after the headteacher, Graham Downes, called them to a special afternoon assembly to break the news and asked them to pray for David.

A letter from Mr Downes to all parents said: "We are concerned that anyone in the school has access to whatever support to cope with their reaction to the events of today."

Several pupils said they saw David on the floor after the incident in the small foyer of the school's J-block, where woodwork and graphics are taught. Michael Green, 12, who was leaving with his mother, said David was apparently unconscious, and his lips were blue.

Ambulance officers indicated David had suffered a cardiac arrest on the way to Trafford General Hospital, where he died at 1.05pm. The witnesses will now be put through video interviews, accompanied by their parents. The two 14-year-olds are being held at Greater Manchester police stations.

David's death comes just over a year after the murder of 14-year-old Luke Walmsley, who was stabbed to death in a school corridor, though police said no weapons had been used in the Manchester incident. Luke's parents in Grimsby have set up a sports foundation in his memory. His killer, Alan Pennell, 16, who had a history of violence, is serving life for murder.

A family friend said David, who had four brothers, had been a pleasant child. "They are a very close family and David was such a nice lad," she said. "He was a bit cheeky at times but what teenager isn't. He did not deserve this."

Ian Platt, chairman of the town council at Partington, a down-at-heel, 1960s Manchester overspill on the city's border with rural Cheshire, said Mr Downes, headteacher for 26 years, had worked hard to win college status for the school and secure funding for new buildings.

But he said the town struggled with its rough reputation. "[The problem] is one of perception," he said. "Trafford is very affluent but Partington is its one ward that falls within the bottom 3 per cent in the UK [for various social indices.]"

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, this week published a "statement of expectations" for pupil behaviour and promised new powers for headteachers to tackle disciplinary problems. He also said excluded pupils should be shared between schools to limit the number of disruptive pupils at any one place.

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the teachers' union NASUWT, insisted that most schools were "safe havens of peace and security".