‘He ran at me with an axe’: teachers on facing violence in schools

‘He ran at me with an axe’: teachers on facing violence in schools


One afternoon in 2013, Andrew, then 11, had to stay behind after school for misbehaving in his English lesson. He’d thrown water at the teacher, wound up other pupils and tried to run out of the classroom. The punishment was to complete the work that he hadn’t done in class. Supervising the detention was Mark Oldman, the headteacher.

“I said, ‘OK, we need to get this work done,’” recalls Oldman. “He said, ‘No, I want to go home to my mum.’ I said, ‘I will ensure you get home after you’ve done this. I will even give you a lift home. But it’s important you get this work done.’ At that point he ran at me and tried to push me. Then he tried to punch me and basically latched on to my arm. He dug his nails into my hand and wouldn’t let go.” Andrew took a chunk out of Oldman’s hand. The headteacher required a bandage and tetanus jab. He still has the scar.

“Yes, I’ve thrown stuff at teachers,” says Andrew, now 15. “I’ve thrown pens, chairs. In the end you don’t actually want to hurt them, it’s just out of anger.” He was excluded around 100 times from various primary schools.

Here at Millgate, a school for boys aged 11 to 16 with social, emotional and mental health problems in Leicester, all of the pupils have been permanently excluded from one or more schools before arriving, mostly for attacking staff either physically or verbally. These boys are “the absolute extreme”, says Oldman, cheerfully. “I’ve had computer monitors thrown at me. I’ve been whacked around the head with a tennis racket. I’ve had punches thrown at me, been spat at.” Soon after he was appointed in January 2013, a pupil ran at him with an axe. “I was going to keep him in detention and they weren’t used to detentions here. So he took an axe out of the van – the school used to do forestry skills, and the van was still open – and ran at me.” Oldman intercepted the axe and restrained the boy.

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