PARENTS are on high alert after man tried to get a schoolgirl into his car outside a South Tyneside school.
The man, who was in a small red car, was outside Harton Primary School in East Avenue, South Shields, at 9.20am yesterday.
He asked the nine-year-old girl if she wanted a lift as she’d be late for school.
However, the quick-thinking youngster ran into school and the car drove off.
The driver was white, with brown hair, and was wearing a blue T-shirt.
The school’s headteacher Allison Chipchase said it is taking the incident “extremely seriously” and held a special assembly to remind pupils of the need to stay safe.
She said: “As soon as the incident was reported to the school, we immediately informed the police and they were very quick to respond.
“We take these matters extremely seriously as the safeguarding of our children is paramount.
“The school liaised closely with the local authority throughout the day, to ensure every official base has been covered.
“We have also written a letter to parents that was sent home with the pupils, and held a special assembly to sensitively advise the children to be safe, aware and vigilant.”
Speaking outside the school gates yesterday, one mum who has a daughter at the school said having a child snatched is every parent’s worst nightmare.
Hayley Bates, 30, who lives nearby said: “When you hear about something like this happening it’s really scary.
“All the parents are worried, it’s your worst nightmare.
“Thankfully the little girl knew to run off and didn’t come to any harm.
“I hope someone saw the car or got the registration plate and can identify the driver.”
Labour ward councillor for Harton, Coun Pat Hay, said: “The school works very closely with the neighbourhood policing team to make sure that pupils, parents and staff are aware of the potential dangers out there.
“Thankfully this girl ran into school and wasn’t hurt in any way.
“I hope the police manage to find out who was in the car and get to the bottom of the incident.
“It is worrying for parents when something like this happens, but I know there’s a lot of hard work going on to prevent children coming to any harm.”
Police are now looking for witnesses to try and find the mystery man.
Neighbourhood Inspector Dave Hudson said: “We are currently investigating the exact circumstances of this incident and are speaking to people who were in the area at the time.
“This appears to have been isolated incident, and we are doing all we can to trace the vehicle and its driver.
“The girl, although shaken, was not physically harmed.
“Neighbourhood officers are patrolling around the school and surrounding streets today to offer everyone reassurance.
“I’d ask that any pupils, parents or residents with any concerns to speak to them.”
Inspector Hudson added: “I’d like to remind people that incidents of children being approached by strangers are very few and far between, and sometimes there’s an innocent explanation.
“However, where we do get reports of this nature, they are always taken very seriously, and we are working in close partnership with the school and local authority in relation to this particular one.
“I’d urge any witnesses or anyone with information to contact us.”
Any witnesses or anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101, extension 69191.