Fortress fears;Leading Article

13th August 1999 at 01:00
THE Government is being urged to change the law to prevent members of the public from entering school grounds where there is a public right of way. The call follows a series of incidents in which footpaths that cross school premises have become a focus for dog nuisance, vandalism and criminal damage.

Supporters of the change argue persuasively that the right of access should not be put above children's right to safety. The news this week from Los Angeles, of yet another crazed gun attack on innocent children, underlines the need for vigilance. We should take all reasonable steps to ensure that schools offer as safe an environment as possible.

But we should be wary of supporting a blanket ban on public access. As the Ramblers' Association points out, the law already allows schools to propose diversions to footpaths if children are thought to be at risk. It is important to remember Lord Cullen's wise view, following the Dunblane massacre, that there could be no instant solutions to improving school security. Schools ought to be increasing, not decreasing, their contact with the community. We should not allow panic to turn them into fortresses.

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