IM this article to a friend!

June 10, 2004


From: Exeter Express, UK - Jun 10, 2004

12:00 - 10 June 2004

An Exeter school is reviewing its security after a seven-year-old pupil was able to walk out and travel three miles across the city by himself.

A teacher from Central First School in St Leonard's Road discovered the boy was missing shortly after 2pm one day before half-term.

A group of staff immediately searched the school grounds and surrounding area.

Several other staff drove and cycled along a route the pupil might have walked to reach his home in Exwick.

The school contacted the police at 2.30pm and informed the boy's parents, who are deaf, by mobile phone text.

At 3pm the pupil was found safe and well on the doorstep of his Exwick home by a teacher.

The youngster was brought back to school where his parents were waiting.

It is not known which route the boy took to get from St Leonard's to Exwick but he would have had to have crossed either traffic-clogged Exe Bridges or the Red Cow railway crossing.

His name has not been released by the school or police.

Central First's headteacher Sarah Pritchard said: "The child has been in our school for over three years and he has never done anything like this before. We would never have expected it. He is a normal, level-headed child.

"One moment he was in the cloakroom next-door to his classroom poking his head around the door to the teacher, and the next moment he had disappeared. The teacher instantly thought 'Where is he?'

"We moved into our procedures and deployed staff to search for him.

"We found him on his doorstep at Exwick looking absolutely wide-eyed, as if he was thinking 'What have I done?'

"We just gave him a great big hug and brought him back to school."

She added: "How he escaped we don't know. We are reviewing all our safety procedures.

"We have fences and security locks on all our main doors but we are checking our procedures again to see if we have missed anything.

"We were very fast but he must have got himself from here to his home very quickly. He has walked the route with his older sisters and they come by car to school so they know the route well.

"We were obviously horrified to think a child would suddenly decide to take himself off. He looked very bewildered but we were just grateful he was safe. We talked to him about the dangers involved in what he did.

"It is a horrible thing to happen to any school. We thought it would never happen to us. It is our duty of care to the children to ensure they are safe."

A spokesman for the county council said: "We are aware of the incident and confident that the school followed all the necessary procedures. The school has reviewed its site security and we will provide advice if necessary."

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd.