Plea for fast police response to schools

ROBUST procedures must be in place to ensure a rapid police response to every call for help from schools, teachers have insisted.The plea came after a teacher at St Benedict's College, Colchester, was beaten up by a teenager in a gang of intruder youths who were playing truant from another school.

By Juliette Maxam

ROBUST procedures must be in place to ensure a rapid police response to every call for help from schools, teachers have insisted.

The plea came after a teacher at St Benedict's College, Colchester, was beaten up by a teenager in a gang of intruder youths who were playing truant from another school.

St Benedict's headteacher Alan Whelan has criticised police for not responding to the school's call for help quicker - although Essex Police have defended their actions.


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Geography teacher Dave Deeny saw seven youths wearing hoodies, with scarves over their faces, come out of a classroom where a mock exam was taking place at lunchtime on Wednesday.

He challenged them and caught hold of one of the youngsters, who punched him several times in the face, leaving him with a bloodied nose, bruised face and bloodshot eye.

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As soon as the gang was spotted on the school's Norman Way campus, police were called. The school then made a further four calls before police arrived, by which time Mr Deeny had been taken to hospital in an ambulance.

Mr Whelan, who was a teacher at St George's School, London, when headteacher Philip Lawrence was stabbed to death in a gang attack, said the school's call should have been given higher priority by police who arrived at the school nearly 20 minutes after they were called even though the police station is less than a mile from the school.

“It's not given sufficient priority. In the aftermath of the Philip Lawrence murder, the police were far more proactive and far quicker in reacting to incidents in schools,” said Mr Whelan.

“What does it take? Does it take another thing to go wrong? Why should my staff have to hold on to people who assaulted a member of staff for 10 to 15 minutes while waiting for police. It puts them in massive danger.”

National Union of Teachers Essex executive member Jerry Glazier said: “There need to be robust procedures in place, including a fast response from police when schools make calls for help.”

He added: “Events in recent years have resulted in big improvements in school security, not least the importance of having one electronically controlled entry system to school and fences around schools, but there needs to be a balance.

“Schools cannot become fortresses - that would have a detrimental impact on the educational environment.”

Mr Whelan, who praised police for the way they dealt with the incident subsequently, said he has discussed the response time with police, who told him they logged the first call as “nuisance youths” which has a low priority.

“They're (the police) still of the opinion that they gave good service in the first instance,” said Mr Whelan, who would like police to review their procedures and change them.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: “Police were called by a member of staff to St Benedict's College at 12.38pm to 'four youths running on field'. This was recorded as 'nuisance youths', which is a routine call, but because a unit was available a police car and two officers were sent to the school at 12.39pm, one minute later.

“At 12.42pm police received a call from ambulance informing us that they had been told of an assault at the school and were attending. Another police car was additionally sent. Police then received several calls from the school timed between 12.45pm and 12.48pm reporting the same. At 12.55pm police made two arrests.

“Currently there are nine youths arrested for various offences of violent disorder and assault. They are all on police bail whilst enquiries continue.

“Police are therefore unable to go into any further details of this incident as proceedings are active.”

Mr Deeny, a father-of-two, has been signed off work for a week by his doctor. He did not want to make any comment.

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