Sheffield mums call for school lockdown drills after attack at city school

A Sheffield mum of a pupil at the city school where there was a recent attack has launched a petition calling for standard lockdown alarms and drills in all schools.

Caron Britton said that lessons must be learned after two young women and a child were injured during an incident at Birley Academy on May 1.

A 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with three counts of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm.

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Two women in their 20s and a child suffered minor injuries that did not require hospital treatment, said South Yorkshire Police. The 17-year-old, who has also been charged with possession of a blade or sharply-pointed article on a school premises, has been remanded in custody.

Caron Britton, left, and Jayne Mason at S12 Community Pantry in Scowerdons Community Centre, Sheffield - Caron is campaigning for schools to have standardised emergency alarms and drills after the recent incident at Birley Academy. Picture: Julia ArmCaron Britton, left, and Jayne Mason at S12 Community Pantry in Scowerdons Community Centre, Sheffield - Caron is campaigning for schools to have standardised emergency alarms and drills after the recent incident at Birley Academy. Picture: Julia Arm
Caron Britton, left, and Jayne Mason at S12 Community Pantry in Scowerdons Community Centre, Sheffield - Caron is campaigning for schools to have standardised emergency alarms and drills after the recent incident at Birley Academy. Picture: Julia Arm

Caron’s son, who is a Y7 pupil at Birley Academy, phoned her during the emergency lockdown at the school to say that he was terrified and did not know what was going on. She said she also understands that a supply teacher had mistaken the alarm that was sounded for a fire alarm and was preparing to evacuate one classroom.

In contrast, she said another local school sounds a special alarm and holds regular drills so that all staff and children know what to do. Caron wants to see all schools following a single routine that is practised regularly like a fire drill, so that everyone knows what is happening and what to do to stay safe.

Her online petition to Sheffield City Council calls for the council to make it compulsory for all schools to have drills at least once a term, showing children what to do in the event of an emergency and the school needing to be put in lockdown.

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The petition says: “This needs to be consistent across all schools and a policy in place. Recently our local school had an incident where the school had to be placed in lockdown due to a visitor being armed and dangerous.

“Some children at the school had previously been taught in primary what to do in the event of an emergency lockdown and that the bell would sound different. Many children (and some staff) weren’t aware of what was expected of them and this was both frightening and overwhelming.

“This should be taught from the day they start school (be age appropriate for the younger ones ), how the bell would sound and how they would keep themselves safe.”It adds: “All schools should follow the same protocol so as when children leave primary for secondary they are all using the same method and there is little room for confusion.”

Petition link: https://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=10327&RPID=14698035&HPID=14698035

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The petition was started on Caron’s behalf by her friend Jayne Mason. They co-run the S12 Community Pantry at Scowerdons Community Centre and recently won their campaign for a pedestrian crossing on Birley Spa Lane, close to Birley Spa Primary Academy and St John Fisher Catholic Primary School.

Caron said: “When that happened up at Birley Academy, my son phoned me and he’s only in Y7, in a right state.

He said, ‘Mum, I’m really, really frightened and dont know what’s going on. We’re hiding under tables’.

“It was very frightening not knowing what was going on. It came out that there was no safety protocol in place throughout any of the schools about what to do in a situation like that.

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“At Birley Primary they have drills for this kind of thing – it’s a different alarm sound. They know exactly what to do – get under tables, doors shut, lights off, phones off.

“At Birley Spa, where I’m a parent governor, they have no idea, and other schools have no idea.”

She said that subsequently she learned about the supply teacher who thought a fire alarm was going off and was taking steps to evacuate children. She said that was potentially a terrifying situation, where an attacker could have come face to face with staff and children.

“It should be one procedure that needs to be implemented throughout the UK,” said Caron. “One alarm system, one drill system, whether primary or secondary and whether London or Edinburgh, so everybody knows that’s happening.

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“My son certainly didn’t know what was going on. Kids from another school knew what it was, knew what to do.”

She said that the actions of staff at the school definitely helped to contain the situation and she is pleased to hear that security measures have been increased.

Caron added that there had been similar incidents at schools in London and Wales at around the same time as the one at Birley Academy.

She said that there needs to be a campaign citywide and even nationwide to call for action. The petition closes on June 30.

A spokesperson for Birley Spa Academy said: “We have extremely robust and secure protocols for dealing with any issues relating to health and safety, and these were demonstrated by the expert way in which staff handled the recent incident at the school.

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“This includes having regular fire and lockdown drills and ensuring that the lanyards of every member of staff contain cards which detail our full safety procedures.

“We also regularly hold staff refresher briefings on these procedures, and all new staff are also fully briefed when they start, including supply teachers.”

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