'Attack didn't put me off'

18th June 2004 at 01:00
A pupil broke her teacher's nose but failed to dent his resolve. Michael Shaw reports

Getting your nose broken by a 14-year-old pupil would put many young teachers off schools for life.

But not trainee English teacher Gareth Thomas, who says that being assaulted by a student has made him more confident in the classroom.

Mr Thomas, 27, is completing a PGCE at Leicester university and will take up his first teaching post in September.

He was attacked two years ago while working as a learning support assistant at Riverside community college in Leicester, a job he fitted in around university studies for a media degree.

Mr Thomas was asked to investigate a fight between two teenage girls in a corridor and succeeded in moving them into separate classrooms.

Friends of one of the pupils demanded that she be released and the teaching assistant then found himself cornered by around 20 irate teenagers.

Just as he felt the pupils were beginning to calm down, a 14-year-old girl rushed at him and punched him four times in the face.

"The first punch broke my nose, the rest left me with bruises on my face," he said. "I'd done a training course with the local authority that looked at breaking up fights - but being surrounded by 20 students? They didn't cover that in the manual."

Although he admits he was shaken, Mr Thomas said his faith in the education system was restored by the way the school handled the incident.

The offending pupil was taken away by a member of the senior management team, reported to the police and later convicted for the assault. She was also immediately expelled from the school and her permanent exclusion was upheld by Riverside's governors.

Mr Thomas received a cheque for pound;1,500 last week from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), an amount which may pale in comparison with pay-outs in other similar cases, but has delighted the young teacher.

Mr Thomas said that his university tutors and fellow students seemed surprised that he was eager to begin work as a teacher after his ordeal.

"People cannot believe that I am happy to work in a school now, but it has actually increased my confidence," he said. "You hear stories about violent pupils having their exclusions overturned, but in this case the system worked and getting the cheque was a bonus.

"I was not going to let a 14-year-old thug put me off what I wanted to do.

I think it's taught me to remain calm when I'm teaching. I just cannot imagine that I'll face another situation that will be on the same level ."

Victims of violent crimes can find out if they are eligible for payments from the CICA at www.cica.gov.uk

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