'Is no one safe anywhere?'

7th November 2003 at 00:00
The stabbing of a 14-year-old has devastated a close-knit community. Helen Ward reports

Teachers and pupils at the Lincolnshire school where 14-year-old Luke Walmsley was fatally stabbed are preparing to return to lessons on Monday as school staff throughout Britain expressed shock at his killing.

Luke died from a single stab wound to the heart, despite the efforts of teachers and paramedics to save him.

His mother, Jayne, and Gary Loveridge, his head at Birkbeck school and community arts college, near Louth, expressed their sense of devastation over his death.

"Our family has been ripped apart and will never be the same again. Luke loved life and loved sport," said Mrs Walmsley.

"He had his whole life mapped out and wanted to become a policeman when he left school. Luke's future has been taken away and Luke has been taken away from us. Our lives will never be the same again."

Luke was a member of Grimsby judo club and played football for North Somercotes under-15s. Mr Loveridge said he was "a boy who shone".

"It feels as if a nightmare has descended upon us with one moment of violent madness," he said.

"Luke was a strong and positive boy who was liked by all staff. We will miss him very dearly."

His death prompted contributors to The TES website to disclose other incidents involving knives in school.

One said: "I've taken knives from kids on three occasions during my career.

I can see the days coming when we might have to have detectors at school gates and security guards. I think there are many schools where guards are needed now."

Another added: "I don't know why, but I was surprised that the school was not a huge faceless conglomerate but a small arts college. It seems that no one is safe anywhere now."

Birkbeck was due to open yesterday and again today to allow pupils, parents and staff to pay tribute to Luke. The school also planned to make professional counsellors available. A memorial service is due to be held next Tuesday.

Birkbeck serves North Somercotes and the surrounding area. The coastal village has a population of 1,500 and a high street with a couple of pubs, a fish and chip shop and a village hall. Police call the community close-knit.

Since the tragedy the school has been overwhelmed with messages and cards of condolence.

As The TES went to press, the police said they are treating the incident as murder. A 15-year-old has been arrested.

Chief superintendent Phil Carter, of Lincolnshire Police, said: "I want to add my personal condolences to the family of Luke and to the hundreds of pupils of the school and the teachers who will have been traumatised by this incident."

Chris Keates, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "This is an horrific event.

"It is a tragic example of how the increasing use of weapons in crime on the streets is spilling over into the once relative calm and security of schools."

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said schools may have to follow the American example and install metal detectors.

Birkbeck school was last inspected in 1998, when the Office for Standards in Education described it as "popular and successful". It gained specialist arts college status earlier this year.

Standards are below the county and national average, in 2002 45 per cent of pupils achieved five good GCSEs. The county's average was 54 per cent and the national average was 52 per cent.

But the school - which is close to a selective grammar - takes in relatively few of the highest attaining pupils and proportionately more low achievers, according to its Ofsted report.

Government statistics show that pupils at the school make better progress than expected given their primary school results. The proportion leaving with no GCSEs is lower than the county or national average.

The Ofsted report said: "Pupils at Birkbeck school are courteous to visitors, show respect to staff and help each other." It added: "Staff are thorough, hard-working and dedicated."

The school's stated aim is "achievement by caring".

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today