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Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK


Parents asked to help with school security

Should parents help protect children at school?

Parents have been invited to help with security at a north London primary school, after a dinner lady was stabbed in the playground.

The acting headteacher of Bruce Grove Junior School in Tottenham, Con McAfee, has proposed that parents anxious about the safety of their children should volunteer to spend time in the school playground during lunchtimes.

After a protest outside the school by parents wanting improvements in security, Mr McAfee said that a practical way of improving safety would be for concerned parents to have a visible presence in the playground.

A vetting procedure and timetable would be put into place if support for such a scheme was forthcoming from parents, he said.

The proposal for parents helping to secure playgrounds was broadly welcomed by the Metropolitan Police.

Although discouraging any kind of vigilantism, a police spokesman said that parents banding together in this way could make a contribution to creating a more reassuring school environment.

In the attack two weeks ago, the school's headteacher wrestled an attacker to the ground, after the intruder had stabbed a 41-year-old dinner lady in the playground, in front of the children she was helping to supervise.

A man has been charged with attempted murder and the headteacher, Geoff Webb, hailed a hero after disarming the attacker, has retired.

Putting lives on the line

"Staff in schools are putting their lives on the line - they aren't getting the protection they deserve," said Mr McAfee.

The day before the knife attack, the former headteacher had been assaulted by intruders, Mr McAfee said.

"Any violence devalues the institution and we discourage the use of any violence within the school. But the violence against teachers reflects the way that teachers are being devalued by society," he said.

The school already has security cameras and Mr McAfee is seeking extra police patrols outside the gate to encourage a greater sense of confidence.

As well as addressing security, Mr McAfee proposed greater efforts in teaching subjects such as citizenship, in which concepts of fairness and right and wrong can be addressed.

Mr McAfee said that the retired head of the school's act of heroism in tackling the intruder provided a clear example of right and wrong, which might be taught to young people.

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