Too scared to teach in schools after being stabbed by a student


Vincent Uzomah thought he was dying after being knifed by a 14-year-old while working as a supply teacher.

                              Too scared to teach in schools after being stabbed by a student

Hundreds of children are taking knives into schools, according to figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests to police forces in England and Wales.

Inevitably teachers are at the forefront of dealing with the trend to carry weapons into the classroom.

For physics teacher Vincent Uzomah the consequences almost proved fatal. This is his story.

Vincent Uzomah thought he was dying.

As he lay bleeding, on his classroom floor, he prepared a final message for his wife and three children.

The physics teacher had just been stabbed by a pupil. A boy, aged only 14.

“I was teaching in the classroom and he just pulled out a knife and stabbed me in the stomach,” Dr Uzomah tells me. “It was such a horrible experience. No-one should have to go through the same thing.”

It’s now four years since that attack.

I meet Dr Uzomah at his new place of work – a university in Greater Manchester. He’s had a busy day, with lectures and tutorials.

“I’ve got more than 120 students this year!” he tells me, clearing papers to get his desk looking tidy for our camera.

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He’s got thick piles of marking to get through before his day is over but it’s clear he loves teaching.

Dr Uzomah’s students are adults, university age and above.

But when he was attacked in June 2015, Dr Uzomah was a part-time supply teacher at a secondary school.

Originally from Nigeria, he’d just completed a PhD at the University of Salford, and was teaching three days a week at Dixon Kings Academy, a mixed-sex free school in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

“The attack made me not go back to secondary schools any more,” Dr Uzomah says. “But the impact continues even here. Sometimes when I’m clustered by students I start feeling very uncomfortable. So it’s an ongoing thing.”

As he was under-18, Dr Uzomah’s attacker has never been named publicly.

But during his trial, the court heard he’d brought the weapon to school in his rucksack. It was a six-inch kitchen knife.

He received an 11-year custodial sentence.

“I forgave him for what he did,” Dr Uzomah says, “but the thought of going into a school now frightens me.”

And he’s shocked, but not surprised, at the news that brought me to his office – that a growing number of children in England and Wales are bringing weapons, especially knives, into schools.

“With the trend of things, it’s becoming more unsafe, and something should be done,” he says.

“I don’t think children are as safe as they have been, in the past. I don’t know if it’s because of what [they] are exposed to, what they are watching, or being taught, or what their friends are doing.

“It’s like kids prefer to do things and damn the consequences.”

                              Too scared to teach in schools after being stabbed by a student

Knife crime hits record high as offences up by 8%

Knife crime offences hit a record high in 2018-19, up by 8% on the previous year in England and Wales, new figures show

We discuss that a four-year-old, in North Wales, is amongst the thousands of pupils that police have found at school with a weapon.

“A four-year-old!” he says. “What do they know about knives and weapons? What do they even know about anger?

“I think we need to look inwards to see what is it that we’re doing wrong? Teachers, what is going wrong? The government, is there anything that we could do differently?”

But would Dr Uzomah ever go back to teach in a secondary school?

“No, I don’t feel safe going to teach in schools. My wife is also a teacher, she is also traumatised.

“And I think there are other teachers that feel the same.”

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