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Call for protection after teacher is knocked out

27-02-2008

27/02/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Belfast Telegraph

There were calls today for better protection for Ulster's teachers after a secondary school principal was punched in the face and knocked out.

Seamus Barnes, head of St Gabriel's College in north Belfast was attacked by a relative of a pupil last Tuesday morning.

Police and an ambulance crew were called in after Mr Barnes, a teacher for more than 36 years, fell to the ground unconscious.

Pupils watched in horror as the attack unfolded in the foyer of the Crumlin Road school.

Mr Barnes, who has been head teacher at St Gabriel's for the past four years, said he was " disgusted" by the attack and said it raised important issues about the safety of teachers.

He said: "It happened at about 9.15am. Police are dealing with the matter. I can confirm I was assaulted by a person."

Mr Barnes said he remembers very little after the alleged punch but was told he was "out" for a few seconds.

"It was quite a shock. I was very surprised and disgusted with the whole thing. I am not marked, there was no physical damage as such.

"The office staff called the ambulance and the police. I can't praise them highly enough because they understood they sensitivity of the situation. It is now left in the hands of the police and I hope it is dealt with.

He added: "This is something that shouldn't happen in any school. Schools are places which should be regarded as special and safe. It is unfortunate that this sort of a situation was created where there are children. "What sort of a message is it giving them?"

A spokesman for the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools said: "The CCMS can confirm that an incident did take place last week at St Gabriel's College, Belfast last week. The incident is now the subject of a police investigation and it would be inappropriate for CCMS to comment any further until such times that the PSNI investigation is concluded."

A PSNI spokeswoman said investigations were continuing.

Tony Carlin of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation said: "We are very concerned. The assault at St Gabriel's was just one incident."

Seamus Searson, an NASUWT spokesman urged the Department of Education to issue guidance and training on dealing with violence in the classroom.

He said: "It's unfortunate but not unusual for things like this to happen."

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