A science teacher has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after three pupils were assaulted during a lesson, one of them a 14-year-old boy who was left in a critical condition with serious head injuries.
Peter Harvey, 49, is said to have assaulted his pupil after the boy swore at him in the classroom. He is alleged to have attacked the teenager with a heavy metal weight, beating him over the head in front of a class of more than 20 children. Two of the boy's classmates, a boy and a girl, both 14, were also assaulted, apparently when they went to their friend's aid.
The teacher was arrested after the incident, which happened just after 11am on Wednesday morning at All Saints Roman Catholic Comprehensive School, in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Tonight he was still being interviewed by Nottinghamshire Police after the force applied for extra time to question him.
Officers were alerted to the incident after paramedics arrived at the school and found the boy in a pool of blood at the entrance to the science block.
He was taken to Kings Mill hospital and then moved to a specialist unit at Nottingham's Queens Medical Centre, where his condition was described as critical. Yesterday, however, Nottinghamshire County Council, the local education authority, said the boy's condition had "slightly improved" overnight.
The Year 8 class was having a physics lesson when the incident happened. Police confirmed that two other teenagers were also allegedly assaulted in the same incident. Their injuries required medical attention, but they were allowed to go home that afternoon. They also confirmed that a weapon was used in the assault.
At a press conference outside the school yesterday Detective Superintendent Adrian Pearson of Nottinghamshire Police said that such a case was "very, very rare" and said that pupils were left "traumatised" by what had happened. He added: "People send their children here from great distances because of its academic record and what happened is very much out of character for the school.
"I know a number of parents have rung the headteacher about what has happened but I would appeal for everyone to be calm, particularly in relation to those people involved."
A letter was sent to the parents of all 1,170 pupils at the school informing them than an incident had taken place. The Mayor of Mansfield, Tony Egginton, sent his daughter to the school. He said: "It's exceedingly sad that this happened. We don't know the full details but it does seem bizarre that this has happened. It"s very concerning and I feel for the parents of the other pupils who may start to wonder whether their child has been subjected to any bullying if they have been in this teacher's class.
"Irrespective of whether he has been goaded, it is not the response we would expect from a mature teacher. All Saints is a very reputable school and it has performed extremely well. For this to happen is a bitter blow to their reputation, and the headteacher and the rest of the team have a massive job to build back their name."
Mr Harvey, a married father of two girls who are believed to be pupils at the school, is said to have recently been treated for "stress-related problems". Last night his wife Samantha was being comforted at their detached home by a family friend who said: "We can't say anything at the moment because we don't really know anything. Peter is still with the police. I don't think his wife could cope with saying anything right now. She is very, very upset."
In the wake of the incident, a Facebook group was temporarily set up by friends who posted get well soon messages.
A similar page named Mr Harvey Is A Legend was also set up by pupils in support of the teacher. One former pupil wrote: "I don't believe for one second he meant to hurt anyone. He just happened to break down at school."
Another added "He was (sic) a legendary teacher but you could see in his lessons he wasn't all there. He would talk to himself a lot and shake but I never thought he would do this." And one said: "He may become a victim of his most famous saying, 'What you abuse, you lose'."