No lottery cash for school security

19th July 1996 at 01:00
The Wolverhampton machete attack has not changed the Government's position.

The Government is resisting fresh demands for National Lottery money to be spent on school security in the wake of last week's machete attack at a Wolverhampton infants school.

Amid mounting public concern over safety, two of the main teachers' unions have supported the idea.

One pupil and nursery nurse Lisa Potts are still in hospital with serious injuries 10 days after the attack during a teddy bears' picnic outside St Luke's Church of England aided school.

Horrett Campbell, 32, who lives in a block of flats near the school, has been charged with seven counts of attempted murder.

St Luke's reopened on Monday, although the nursery class will not return until next term. "The school wanted to break the ice and get the children back as soon as possible," said Robert Ellis, spokesman for the governors.

The decision was taken in agreement with the local education authority once it was known that an arrest had been made. Nearly all parents sent their children back on the first day. Mr Ellis said that parents and pupils were invited to a meeting at the school last Friday to ask questions and allay fears. He said: "The governors were very anxious to express their thanks to parents and police who put their lives on the line. They also wanted to say a big thank you to the local community and the media."

Pressure on the Government to announce measures to make schools safer has been mounting since the Dunblane massacre and the death of London headteacher Philip Lawrence in a stabbing incident last year. Substantial new money has been promised, but only from next April.

Both the National Association of Head Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers have voiced their support for diverting lottery profits to schools.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "In the emergency circumstances in which we are in, I think this would be a good thing to do. We need to do everything we can to make schools as safe as possible. If this is the only way we can get the money, let's not get into a philosophical argument about whether lottery money can be used for this purpose."

David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "The real responsibility must lie with central government to provide the substantial new money it has promised. But lottery money could be used as a top-up."

The Department of National Heritage has dismissed the idea, however. "Funding for school security must come from mainline provision," said a spokeswoman. "The National Lottery was not intended to replace mainline Government funding. "

The Secondary Heads Association has backed calls by the parents of pupils killed at Dunblane for restrictions on the possession of handguns.

In a letter to Lord Cullen, who is conducting the official inquiry into the tragedy, John Sutton, general secretary of the SHA, said: "The association understands the positions of those respectable people who wish to pursue what they regard as a legitimate sport of shooting but believes that, given that their weapons can safely and properly be stored elsewhere, this is not a sufficient argument to justify their private possession."

Meanwhile, the NASUWT has stressed the importance of tackling pupil violence and indiscipline, as well as improving security.

The Government working party on security in schools, set up after the death of Philip Lawrence, reconvened on Monday with a warning from Mr de Gruchy that the problems are worsening.

"We need to reassert the primacy of teaching," he said. "Teachers realistically cannot cope with these rising social problems and at the same time teach satisfactorily and raise standards to the levels now required. Schools must be re-established as places of authority and good behaviour. Only then could they help solve the wider problems in society."

Mr de Gruchy said that a parliamentary answer by schools minister Robin Squire had revealed that almost 6,000 teachers took early retirement on medical grounds during 1995-96. The total for the decade now stood at more than 45,000, despite a Government crackdown on applications.

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