Tube bomber's school reborn

9th September 2005 at 01:00
Primary where bomber worked starts term in an upbeat mood. Helen Ward reports as a new study shows vital role played by teachers and parents of Muslim males

The start of the academic year heralded the opening of a new school on the site of the Leeds primary where Mohammed Sidique Khan, one of the London suicide bombers, had worked.

And as Patrick Wilkins, headteacher, looked out on to the playground at the children in the white and royal blue uniforms, he spoke of his optimism for the future - and his determination to address any concerns.

"There are many clear signs that the community is working closely together after the shock and disruption we all faced in July," he said.

"As the headteacher of a new school, I'm really relishing the opportunities open to us. There's a great deal to look forward to. As a school, we're clear that we will address any concerns children, or their parents or carers may raise with us about the London bombings.

"However, at this stage, parents and carers are asking us about new classes and uniforms, and staff are focusing on our educational priorities and looking forward to our building as it starts to take shape."

New Bewerley school has been formed from the merger of Hillside primary, Beeston, and nearby Greenwood primary, and has created as part of a review of surplus places in the city. It is named after Bewerley Street school, the first purpose-built school for the public opened in Leeds in 1873.

The 317 pupils aged four to 11 will be on the Hillside site for only a year, while a pound;5million school is built on the former Greenwood site, half a mile away.

The new building, which has a single-storey spiral shape inspired by Matisse's famous snail painting, will be ready by October 2006. It will provide not only education but also childcare in its role as an extended school.

It was hoped that with the excitement of such huge change at the school, the past could be put behind them by pupils and staff.

But the release of a video with Khan, 30, speaking in the familiar local accent declaring "We are at war and I am a soldier", has turned the spotlight firmly back to West Yorkshire. It is now more than two months since the bombs in London killed 56 people, including the four bombers.

When it was revealed that Khan, who was responsible for killing six people and injuring 120 others at London's Edgware Road tube station, had been employed as a learning mentor at Hillside, the school was besieged by the media.

At the time, Mike Haworth, a senior educational psychologist with Education Leeds, told The TES that teachers at Hillside were reassuring children that everything would be all right. He said that staff had expressed guilt about not having picked up what was going on.

The school still refers calls from journalists to the local authority's press office. A press officer confirmed that there had been a flurry of interest this week, but there was no longer the huge amount of calls experienced last term.

* The family of Mohammed Sidique Khan fear for their lives and have been in hiding since the London atrocities, said Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury.

* Umar, Mohammed and Ziyad, three Muslim boys in Leeds who spoke to The TES this summer about the effect of the bombings on attitudes towards them, have gained the GCSE grades they needed to go on to college. Read more in Friday magazine.

* helen.ward@tes.co.uk

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