We must take action to keep the peace in schools

30th July 2004 at 01:00
The death of Luke Walmsley at the hands of a fellow pupil in a Lincolnshire school has once again turned the spotlight on to school security. Such horrific deaths in schools are thankfully extremely rare.

Unfortunately, however, incidents of pupils carrying weapons are increasing and, as Luke's death illustrates, are not confined to urban areas.

Some pupils justify their actions as a means of defending themselves against bullying or threat of attack. There is, however, a fine line between an act of self-preservation and one of violent aggression.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has maintained that there should be zero tolerance of bullying, weapon carrying and acts of violence in schools. Pupils and staff are entitled to work in a safe environment. We have asked the Department for Education and SkillsHome Office school security working party to consider recommending the introduction of random airport-style security checks in schools.

Bag searches and hand-held electronic detectors have worked successfully in parts of the United States and would act as a deterrent to weapon-carrying and as a method of monitoring the extent of the problem. They could be a useful addition to the range of strategies available to schools. Such an approach is entirely consistent with the Government's recently introduced strategy of random drug-testing in schools.

Inevitably, there will be those who dismiss the suggestion as an overreaction, probably the same people who, when the NASUWT some years ago first publicly raised concerns about pupil violence, were equally dismissive, until they recognised that these reflected the very real concerns of parents and teachers.

Compared with the growing weapon-carrying culture among young people on the streets, schools remain relative havens of peace and security, thanks to the professionalism and commitment of teachers, heads and other staff.

Let's make every effort to ensure they stay that way.

tackling bullying, Books 26

Chris Keates is acting general secretary of the NASUWT

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