Twenty school children and their teacher were rushed to hospital following a suspected chemical spill during a science lesson.

The Year 7 pupils at Hove’s Cardinal Newman School complained of “stinging eyes, sore throats” and “breathing problems” midway through the morning lesson.

Emergency services were on the scene shortly before 10am and evacuated the labs – while ordering pupils and teachers throughout the rest of the school to stay in their classrooms for more than two hours.

Head teacher Dr James Kilmartin said a “rigorous” and “thorough”

investigation would be carried out into what happened.

He added: “Parents have nothing to be worried about. I hope they will be reassured that when something did happen we took the right action to respond to it.”


Morning lessons were brought to an abrupt halt when firefighters and specially-trained paramedics rushed to the school.

Dr Kilmartin said a female member of the science department was carrying out an experiment in front of a Year 7 class of 11 and 12-yearolds when a number complained of feeling ill.

The teacher evacuated the youngsters to the Catholic school’s chapel and called for help.

An ambulance spokesman told The Argus that pupils had complained of “itchy eyes, sore throats and breathing problems”.

He added: “We treated a total of 32 pupils, about six of which were having trouble breathing.

“Twenty were taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital (RSCH) as a precaution but it is not thought anyone is seriously ill.”

Panicked parents frantically called the school, other parents and their children.

Others took to Twitter and Facebook to complain about a lack of communication from the school.

Mum Alex Young said: “I appreciate the primary concern is to deal with the situation and look after the pupils, but there’s surely sufficient staff to keep parents informed too.

“I just received a panic phone call from my 12-year-old telling me the police had shut them in their classroom and they didn’t know why.”

Becky Brown added: “First thing I knew about it was driving past the school at 12.30 with police cars all over the place.

“They dealt with the children with a great level of care, which we are all grateful for.

“But if they wish for us not to panic then their direct contact with us needs to be looked into.”

However, Dr Kilmartin defended the school’s action.

He said: “We put something up on our website immediately and had something on Facebook and Twitter.“ We contacted parents on the Parent Pay system as well. There’s not much more we could do.”

Defending the use of hazardous chemicals in lessons he added: “I suppose that’s the nature of chemistry, really, and one of the things we try and do at the school is give the children a very realistic experience of the subject.

“Obviously this shouldn’t have happened and we will be carrying out a thorough investigation to discover what went wrong.”

A spokeswoman for the RSCH hospital confirmed that the students were all discharged.