A TOP-PERFORMING school has been rapped by the Government for breaching its own bullying policy after a complaint from a parent whose daughter attempted suicide.
The Department for Education (DoE) found that Egglescliffe School, in Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, was at fault as it failed to properly record bullying incidents against the victim, who had been targeted since her arrival at the school in 2010.
The teenager, who has special educational needs, found the bullying so unbearable that she was too afraid to go to school and attempted suicide. She has since moved to a different school.
Her mother said the girl had been sent hate mail, was hit in the face with a chair leg, was repeatedly called names and excluded, and was constantly subjected to minor assaults including kicking, punching, punching, elbowing and pushing,
The victim’s parents complained to the Government last year that the incidents of bullying had not been properly recorded and had been dismissed out of hand by the school.
The DoE found that the school had breached its anti-bullying policy after it stopped using incident forms for bullying incidents.
Its finding said: “The headteacher also confirms that no incident forms had been completed for 12 months. There is no evidence to support that the governing body had been consulted about the abandonment of the policy.
“No evidence has been provided to confirm that any of the incidents that this pupil reported were recorded using the Eportal or incident form methods. The department considers this to be a breach of the school’s own anti-bullying policy.”
The victim’s mother, who wanted the family to remain anonymous, told The Northern Echo: “Egglescliffe School developed a culture which tolerates low-level, widespread bullying, which is endemic throughout the school, but particularly in the lower years.
“The school has an excellent academic record – but I believe it has been achieved at a cost of leaving vulnerable children protected from bullying.”
But headteacher Angela Darnell – who received the OBE for services to education in 2010 and retires at the end of this term– claimed the only reason incidents had not been recorded properly was because the school switched from paper form recording to an electronic system.
She added: “After the complaint was made we had a no-notice Ofsted inspection and they looked at Egglescliffe very very closely. They came in and rated the school outstanding for the third time and found no evidence of bullying. Now a considerable time on I have had this letter from the DoE and given then the assurances they require.”
She would not comment on the individual case other than to say: “It was a long-running complaint between one parent and the school but it became very complicated.”
Councillor Ann McCoy, Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “We take all allegations of bullying very seriously. We are satisfied that the school has addressed the issues raised in the report and will continue to work closely with them.”