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Teachers want tough action on pupils with weapons

SCOTTISH teachers have reiterated calls for a zero tolerance approach to pupils who bring knives to schools.

Teachers and pupils laid flowers in tribute to stabbed Ann Maguire, while local people were comforted after a Mass for the victim.
Teachers and pupils laid flowers in tribute to stabbed Ann Maguire, while local people were comforted after a Mass for the victim.

Their pleas came after a teacher from Leeds was stabbed to death by a pupil - the first incident of its kind in a UK classroom.

Ann Maguire, 61, died from multiple stab wounds suffered in the attack at Corpus Christi Catholic College in the city on Monday.

Following the tragedy, teaching unions in Scotland said councils should expel pupils who brought weapons such as knives to school.

However, union officials said it would be impossible to search every pupil before they entered the classroom in case they were carrying a weapon.

Although assaults by pupils on teachers are rare in Scotland, the most recent figures show knives, firearms, chisels and even a hacksaw have been confiscated from pupils in primary and secondary over the past three years.

In one incident, a pupil arrived in class with a spoon sharpened to form a blade, while metal bars, a pool cue and scissors have also been brought to school.

Overall, nearly 800 pupils have been caught with weapons since 2010 — more than 200 of them in primary school.

Police attended 10,860 incidents in schools over the three years up to 2012. These included an allegation of attempted murder, 1382 incidents of assault, 150 cases of possessing or supplying drugs and 94 cases of carrying knives or blades.

Larry Flanagan, general secret­ary of the EIS teaching union, said: "Any weapon confiscated is a matter for concern, but schools are generally safe places.

"Pupils take weapons to school for a number of reasons, such as bravado or to give a greater sense of their own security.

"Nonetheless, the default position has to be that, if a pupil is found with a knife or other weapon, that has to be dealt with by the pupil moving school with the appropriate support in place."

Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, added: "It is always a potential worry because we have said there should be a zero tolerance approach to any kind of violence in schools, but we cannot go down the route of searching every pupil.

"Unfortunately, when lower level incidents do occur, some councils and head teachers do not want adverse publicity and teachers report they are put off complaining by those who want to protect the reputation of the school rather than the safety of their staff."

Mrs Maguire, 61, who taught Spanish, was due to retire in September after working at Corpus Christi Catholic College for more than 40 years. She had moved to working four days a week ahead of her retirement.

Martin Dowling, chairman of the school's governors, paid tribute to the "wonderful, dedicated teacher", as did Corpus Christi head teacher Steve Mort, who said Mrs Maguire would have opposed any move towards introducing metal detectors into schools.

Mr Mort said he believed scanning arches were not necessary and people had to remember this was an "unprecedented" incident.

Mrs Maguire went to Corpus Christi as a student and, last year, the school held a celebration of her 40 years at the school.

Police are continuing to question a 15-year-old boy who was arrested at the school after he was detained by staff.

The school remained opened yesterday and about 750 of the 1000 pupils turned up for lessons. All have been offered a range of support. Hundreds of bouquets have been laid along a 50-yard stretch of the school's railings.

Many of Mrs Maguire's former pupils also attended Mass at Corpus Christi Church, which is connected to the school. Many were in tears as the 150-strong congregation was led in prayers by Monsignor Paul Fisher.

Pupils later told how the youth who attacked the teacher walked from the back of the class and produced a knife before stabbing her multiple times. Another female Spanish teacher went to her aid.

Mrs Maguire's death is the first killing of a teacher in a school since the 1996 Dunblane massacre by gunman Thomas Hamilton.

Mrs Maguire, who was head of Year 11 at the school for more than 10 years, lived in Leeds with her husband Donald, who is believed to be a retired maths teacher. She had two grown-up daughters.

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