It was an unusually heavy response to a fight in a school canteen: a police helicopter, police dog and 15 police vehicles all rushed to Fir Vale Academy in Page Hall, Sheffield, one Tuesday in late September.
The drama, inevitably, was caught on camera. The screaming in the dinner hall, children climbing on tables to escape. Outside, a teenage girl in handcuffs, face-down on a police car; the man in a tracksuit being mauled by a police dog. A pupil had texted false talk of a knife fight, and parents had been trying to scale the fence to reach the school.
Eighty miles away in Liverpool, Gill Furniss made plans to leave the Labour party conference, missing Jeremy Corbyn’s speech. As the local MP, she could see that the fight had the potential to reignite long-running tensions in Page Hall – especially if, as chatter at the school gate suggested, the fight had begun when a Roma girl pulled off the headscarf of a Muslim classmate. “I always keep an eye on Page Hall,” said Furniss. “Clearly something had happened that led parents to become extremely worried about what was going on.”
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