i Editor's Letter: After the terrible murder of Ann Maguire, what can be done to protect teachers from violence?

 

Oliver Duff
Tuesday 29 April 2014 11:27
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Anne Maguire, a secondary school head-of-year in Leeds, is the first teacher to be killed in a British classroom, stabbed to death in front of her pupils by a 15-year-old boy. He was tackled by other teachers and is in police custody. We do not name him in today’s i, in line with other newspapers, although his identity was available online last night.

Teachers have repeatedly warned of the dangers of attacks from students and even parents, with some suffering terrible injuries. Last year, 250 pupils were caught with weapons in schools. In inner-city comps, the increase in knife violence between teenagers - or more accurately the fear of it - has led heads to introduce airport-style metal detector arches, as well as widespread CCTV. The result: those schools can be safer than surrounding streets.

Ms Maguire’s family, colleagues, students and the wider community are left to try to come terms with the arrival of horrific violence in their midst.

What can be done to prevent such an attack? Our politicians are duty-bound to explore anything that might help to protect teachers from violence. Yet many schools already work closely with the police and mental health specialists. Yesterday, ministers and teachers’ unions were careful to avoid snap-reactions. Some will probably call for new powers or laws to try to prevent another such attack, despite wariness about legislation drawn up in the heat of the moment, which can be prone to fail.

Ms Maguire’s death will remind people of the fatal stabbing of Philip Lawrence, the London headteacher murdered trying to help a pupil under attack. But that was in 1995, a generation ago.

I would argue - tentatively at such an early stage in the police investigation - that this killing says nothing more fundamental about our society or about childhood. Instead we must look at the devastating behaviour of a tiny minority of teenagers.

Meanwhile, the outpouring of affection for Ms Maguire from her pupils, past and present, reminds us of the truly profound impact that teachers have on others’ lives.

i@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com: @olyduff

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