14/08/2014 12:57 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Teacher Sacked For Shooting Schoolboy - But 'Victim' Starts Facebook Campaign To Bring Him Back


Pupils have called for a teacher to be reinstated after he was sacked for accidentally shooting a boy with an air gun.

Popular physics teacher Richard West had been demonstrating an experiment to measure the deceleration of a pellet as it passed through sheets of paper when the freak accident occurred.

The pellet apparently deflected off a table, hitting 17-year-old AS level pupil Ben Barlow in the leg.

But the teenager has now set up a Facebook page, Bring Back Westy 2014, calling for authorities to give Mr West his job back.

He said he decided to study physics because of the 53-year-old teacher's ability to 'make the subject come alive'.

Describing what happened, Ben said about 20 lower-sixth formers at St Peter's Collegiate, Wolverhampton, had volunteered to hold sheets of paper at arms-length over a line of desks. He was about three-quarters of the way down the line when he was struck.

He said: "The bullet travelled through the first 10 or 11 sheets, then it must have hit a desk below and cannoned into me.

"It was just a momentary pain, like when you walk into the corner of a table. I was left with just a scratch."

Following the accident in November, Mr West was 'extremely concerned and apologetic' and the experiment was halted. Ben mentioned the incident to his mother that night, and she spoke to the school.

Mr West was suspended soon afterwards and dismissed last week following a disciplinary hearing. It is understood that he was found guilty of gross misconduct.

Ben said he has written to school governors in protest at Mr West's dismissal.

Father-of-two Mr West, who lives with wife Marion, 54, in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, said he wanted his job back but refused to comment further for fear of jeopardising his appeal against dismissal.

Friends said the teacher was 'devastated' at the loss of his unblemished 20-year career at the school.

But one parent said: "I can't believe a teacher thought it was appropriate to take a gun into a school. Surely there are safer ways to do this experiment than taking a deadly weapon into the classroom?"

Head teacher Adrian Richards said Mr West was sacked after a full investigation.

He said: "As we are still in the appeal phase of the process, it would be inappropriate to comment any further."

Ben said pupils taught by Mr West in 1997 had offered support on his Facebook page, Bring Back Westy 2014. It has 2,000 members and has gained 1,000 signatures.

Pupil Isabella Leadbeater, 17, said: "We're infuriated about this and Mr West has been humiliated."

Tim Cooper, a former English teacher at St Peter's, said Mr West was 'one of the best teachers I've ever had the privilege of teaching with'.