It is a terrible story. A teacher stabbed to death in front of her pupils. Tragic for her family, tragic for her school, the community and for the pupils who had to witness it.
A lot will no doubt be written in the next 24 hours about what Anne Maguire's death
means so here are a few thoughts from me.
If anything positive at all can come out of this horrific act it is that we have been reminded how rare very serious acts of violence are in our schools. The Philip Lawrence
story, which many papers have referenced today, is etched clearly on my mind. He was the head teacher of one of the schools close to where I grew up when he was stabbed outside the front gate.
My mother was a governor of the school at the time. I can still remember her running down the street in the dark in great distress to tell me about it. It was a terrible period for St George’s but it was also almost 20 years ago and the school recovered slowly but surely.
There have been very few incidents like this since then, and of those most involved pupils stabbing or fatally assaulting other pupils. The most recent data from Ofsted suggests that behaviour and safety is good or outstanding in 85% of schools.So schools are in general safe and caring environments.
But perhaps the more poignant but also inspiring message from the Corpus Christi tragedy is the depth of love and affection her pupils felt for Anne Maguire.
Current and former pupils have talked of her being a mother figure, they have described how her care for her pupils went beyond the school gate and into their subsequent lives. This is what good schools and great teachers are about; strong relationships that enhance teaching and achievement, but also nourish young people as human beings and make a mark on them for life.
Are there lessons? Of course. As many people have said, eternal vigilance is needed. We don’t know enough about why this young man felt the need to act in this way but it is sadly the case that a lot of young men now do carry knives (more than many people realise probably).
They do this not because they have murderous instincts, or because they want to commit violent acts in school, but because it makes them feel safe on the streets especially if there are is a gang culture which may be invisible to the rest of us, but deeply troubling to adolescent boys in those communities.
Often these boys are vulnerable themselves and don’t realize the danger they put themselves in school by carrying weapons. This is almost certainly an instant permanent exclusion offence in schools and that too has life-changing effects.
Is the answer to scan and search? I don’t think so. That would break what is in most cases a vital bond of trust between schools, pupils and their families. A better approach is to keep educating children on what the impact of these actions can be.
On the radio last night I heard the mother of a boy whose son had been stabbed to death. She has made it her mission to travel round other schools and communities to discuss what that terrible event meant in her life; the real pain and lasting damage it caused her and her family.
Sadly she said some schools don’t welcome her advances. Why? Because they are scared of the implications of such a talk – sending such a message to other families in our era of heightened parent choice might be too detrimental to the schools reputation.
That is something we need to get over. Knife crime, accidental or deliberate, could affect any family at any time. The fact that young people often feel so unsafe is a problem for society, not just for schools, which are often safe havens from a perilous world outside.
If any good comes from Anne Maguire’s death it will be a realisation that we need a grown-up open discussion about this in all schools, to encourage young people to hear the possible consequences of such actions and to put that before the possible reputational damage to our schools.