Classroom killing of Ann Maguire sparks online deluge

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The death of teacher Ann Maguire has caused an outpouring of emotion on twitter. Neil Hudson talks to headteachers and the blogger who started the twitter deluge

The KILLING of Ann Maguire sent shockwaves across the country and as people struggle to come to terms with the appalling details of her death, there has been an outpouring of emotion on twitter.

Until yesterday afternoon, those emotions were sporadic and random but they quickly found a home, thanks to a 38-year-old mother-of-three from Leeds.

Kellie Brown, a freelance writer and blogger who moved from East London to Leeds last year, heard the terrible news in the afternoon and almost immediately set up the hashtag #thankyouteacher on twitter. Within a few hours, it was trending and now contains thousands of tweets from people across the UK.

Kellie said: “I wanted to show teachers the seed of education they plant continues to blossom in later life and that they are still teaching us even when we are adults.

“When I first heard the news, I started to notice there was an outpouring of grief. Leeds is a tight-knit community, everyone seems to know someone connected to the school, so I set up the hashtag.”

Among those who have offered their support to the school is Johnny Mitchell, head of Thornhill Academy, which featured in the Channel 4 series, Educating Yorkshire.

He said: “The reaction on twitter does not surprise me in the digital age. People are appalled by what’s happened but the reaction gives you a bit of inner strength to think, hang on a minute, she was clearly well loved and gave 40 years of service to the profession. Out of the all the messages that were going on there, I didn’t see a single one which was negative in any way.

““Teachers are sometimes portrayed unfortunately but everyone remembers a good teacher - they don’t always have to the ones who were good in class either, they are teachers who inspired children, who connected with them in some way and on some level.

“I remember my old headteacher at Earlsheaton High, Fred Butler - which is going back to 1988 - he inspired me and when I wrote about it recently in the Yorkshire Post Magazine, he phoned me up and he was in tears, he never knew.

“I recently went out for lunch with all my old primary school teachers. When I left there, I remember thinking they all seemed to be about 75 years-old and now they are.

“Most people who have a reasonable experience of school will remember one teacher who stood out. As a teacher, you always want to do your very best for the kids. I can tell by watching a kid walk down a corridor whether something’s up and it might be that their pet’s died or something’s gone on at home. We address that by greeting them with a smile and to ask them how they are. Sometimes they open up to you.

“I know Corpus Christie will be okay, I know how resilient kids are, they amaze me every day. When I informed the children at our school about what had happened, some hadn’t heard, so I was breaking it to them and they were quiet and respectful. Through adversity, they will show their colours.

“Teachers can be inspirational but so can kids, they sometimes inspire you.

“Clearly it’s horrific and appallingly tragic and we have been in contact with the school and given our respects to the family. The lord only know what they must be going through. The school must also be in a state of absolute shock.”

Addressing concerns over safety in school, Mr Mitchell said that while he expected that would form part of the forthcoming debate, he believed they were generally safe places to be.

He said: “Schools are safe places and Corpus Christie is a safe school. It’s a good school and a safe school because Ofsted said it was - if Ofsted walked in there tomorrow, they wouldn’t say anything else, because this was an isolated incident, it could have happened anywhere.

“Inevitably, the debate will swing around to ‘should we have metal detectors in school’. The answer to that is obvious to me: no. The day I see a metal detector in my school is the day I retire.”

Heather Scott is head at Bruntcliffe High. A former police officer, she left to have her son before going into teaching. She said she was not surprised by the reaction on twitter.

“It’s the modern way, everything is so instant today and twitter is such a good medium for things like this in terms of people expressing their feelings and it’s also why we use it in our management meetings for sharing ideas.

“You can speak to any adult anywhere and they will be able to tell you about teachers who made a difference in their lives, there will always be one who resonates with them.

“I have been in teaching 15 years and I’m still in touch with some of the students I first taught as a history teacher, which I think is great.

“I love the impact teachers can have on people. When I worked as a police officer, I knew I was making a difference to the world every day and that was obvious and visible.

“As a head I know teachers make a difference to the world too but that it is not always as visible or immediate. It might be 10 years down the line that someone thinks, ‘I’m glad she that teacher helped me with that sum’ or whatever.

“When people come into teaching, they never come for the money, they come here because they believe they can make a difference to the lives of children.”

Dr Nick Sutcliffe, principal lecturer in the School of Education and Childhood at Leeds Metropolitan University, said it was too early to draw judgements about the case.

He said: “Although we have all heard about incidents in Columbine and Virginia Tech, they are removed from our culture, this is the first time it’s happened here but because we do not know the circumstances, it’s difficult until more information comes into the public domain.

“There is an issue about people challenging authority and I think in general people today seem more empowered to do that. Legislation and policy has led us into a situation where parents and children have far more power than they would, say, 30 years ago. Most of that is a good thing and it would be hard to argue against it but at the same time, it also sends out a message in terms of the level of authority teachers have exercised in the past.”

He added: “The idea of introducing airport-style security would merely enforce the idea in children that schools are a dangerous place rather than a safe place to be.”

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