TEACHERS should not be blamed for violence that happens outside the school gates, union leaders said this week.
The warning came after a south London primary was forced to defend itself when a 10-year-old pupil was murdered on the same day his mother complained he was being victimised by classmates.
Damilola Taylor, who arrived in Britain from Nigeria in September, was walking home from a computer club at a local library at 4.45pm on Monday when he was attacked and left to die in a stairwell near his home. A single stab wound had severed an artery in his left leg.
As staff and pupils at Oliver Goldsmith school in Peckham struggled to come to terms with his brutal death, they faced the added burden of being accused by the boy's family of failing to take his bullying claims seriously.
Hours earlier, his mother, Gloria, had visited the school to voice her concerns. She said that her son had been called "gay" and had been beaten up only days before.
Mark Parsons, head of the school where most the 600 pupils are from ethnic-minority backgrounds, confirmed he had spoken to Mrs Taylor. But he said he was certain Damilola's death had nothing to do with the school.
"I am immensely proud and satisfied with how we deal with bullyig in this school," he said.
"I investigate nearly every incident, even name-calling, and because of that we have virtually no violent bullying at all."
Southwark Council also said it had complete confidence in the school's policies for dealing with bullying and behavioural issues.
Mr Taylor's union, the National Association of Head Teachers, said schools did all they could to tackle bullying but could not control what pupils did outside of school hours.
David Hart, NAHT's general secretary, said: "Everyone is desperately upset at what has happened, but it is quite outrageous to blame the school.
"It is in an area known for violence, but the school has a very strong record for tackling social problems, including bullying."
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:
"Heads are now routinely asked to sort out the consequences of a fight that takes place on a Saturday night when the kids come to school on Monday."
A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Employment said: "This is a shocking and tragic case. Our thoughts are with Damilola's family. Clearly it would be inappropriate to make further comments at this time."
KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTHPRESS ASSOCIATION