Teachers want body armour to carry out gun searches
Last updated at 00:03am on 26th May 2007
Teachers are demanding to be equipped with stab and bullet-proof vests to protect them from being attacked as they frisk pupils for knives and guns.
Laws coming into effect next week allow staff to conduct forcible searches of students suspected of carrying weapons.
But teachers are saying they should not be made to carry out searches unless they are provided with body armour.
More than 220 staff were seriously injured in pupil attacks last year, a rise of 21 per cent since 2002.
Have we really reached the point of our teachers wearing armour?
"In the staffroom of Sunny Haven primary school, where staff are sitting down having a cup of tea, this idea would probably make them laugh," said David Brierley, solicitor for the Professional Association of Teachers.
"But in other schools there may be enormous relief at the idea.
"On the list of possible control measures for schools, we think protective jackets should be on the list."
Mr Brierley said heads should consider buying several of the vests, which typically cost a few hundred pounds.
The union is calling on ministers to include a requirement to supply body armour in guidance on exercising the new powers, which is due to be published shortly. It is expected to say staff should receive training, costing around £50 per teacher, in how to 'pat down' clothing and check pockets for knives, blades and other weapons.
Under the Violent Crime Reduction Act, heads will not need parental consent to search pupils and can authorise other members of staff to exercise the powers.
Teachers will be able to frisk any pupil merely on the suspicion they are armed.
Reasonable grounds to initiate searches include suspicions they are members of a gang which habitually carries weapons and 'wears a distinctive item of clothing or other means of identification.
Meanwhile, airport-style screening using scanning wands or bleeping arches can be used on pupils at random, even if staff harbour no specific suspicions.
The powers are being introduced at a time of mounting public anxiety over shootings and stabbings of children.
Luke Walmsley was stabbed to death at school in Lincolnshire in 2003 while Kiyan Prince was knifed yards from his school gates in North London last year.
A recent wave of knife and gun crime involving teenagers in London has intensified concern.
Last year, a mother sent her 16-year-old son to school in East London in a stab-proof vest because he feared for his safety.
The shopkeeper who sold the teenager the vest said he was selling three a week to children. Jan Myles, assistant secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This is a high-risk strategy which could have dangerous or fatal consequences." "Schools Minister Lord Adonis said incidents involving knives were rare but the Government wanted a zerotolerance approach.
"That's why we are giving head teachers these tough new powers to search for weapons," he said.
"We think parents will welcome the clear message that bringing a knife into schools will not be tolerated."
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