Father's fears over new weapons measures

THE father of a teenager who nearly died after being stabbed by a fellow pupil at school fears new powers to search for weapons in schools will not be widely used.

By David Green

THE father of a teenager who nearly died after being stabbed by a fellow pupil at school fears new powers to search for weapons in schools will not be widely used.

Terry Goddard, whose son Ben suffered horrific injuries when he was attacked at a Suffolk school, claims teachers would be afraid of the publicity and cost created by calling in police officers to search pupils or making the random searches themselves.

Under a string of new measures outlined by Education Secretary Charles Clarke in a crackdown on bad behaviour, headteachers will be able to invite the police into schools unannounced to search pupils for knives and other weapons.

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Mr Clarke, speaking to 500 newly-appointed headteachers at a London conference, said they would also be given new legal rights to search pupils themselves.

At present, pupils can refuse a head's request to be searched and police have to be called before a search can take place.

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Mr Goddard described the new measures as "brilliant" but he doubted whether headteachers would make use of them.

"I have no faith that things will change. Heads are going to be worried about the publicity they will arouse if they call in the police or carry out random searches themselves," he said.

"They will be worried that the publicity will affect school numbers and, consequently, school finances."

Mr Clarke said he believed the random searches could be an effective measure to detect and deter knives in schools.

"I want to make clear that there are simply no excuses for having a knife in school. It is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," said Mr Clarke.

He disclosed that he was asked the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to consider raising the age at which a person could legally buy a knife, from 16 to 18.

Mr Clarke also announced measures to force top-performing schools to take a fairer share of disruptive pupils.

"It is unacceptable that heads, who are working hard to turn round schools with multiple challenges, have had their jobs made harder by taking more than their fair share of challenging or excluded pupils – simply because they have places available," he added.

The headteacher at the school where Ben Goddard was stabbed said he did not wish to comment on the new measures.

The East Anglian Daily Times is prevented from identifying the school concerned because of a court order aimed at protecting the identity of the offender, who was sent to a young offenders' institution.

Ben, who was 15 at the time of the stabbing, is now 17 and a pupil at Copleston High School in Ipswich.

A keen football player, he has regained full fitness following his horrific injury and on Saturday played for Ridgeons League side Woodbridge Town.

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