‘Former student with butcher's knife' climbs into Archway secondary school

Pupils described screaming and stampeding - and children being crushed - in the rush to get away from the knife wielding boy

Tuesday, 5th July — By Charlotte Chambers

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The Archway school on Tuesday morning as parents came to collect their children

TERRIFYING scenes erupted at an Archway secondary school on Tuesday morning amid reports that a former student wielding a foot-long butcher’s knife climbed over the school fence.

Onlookers said the boy jumped down and ran towards students lining up in the playground just before the start of school at 8.40am, and was understood to have been blocked by teachers until police arrived.

Up to 200 children were said to have screamed and stampeded towards the building in the rush to get away from the boy, with students being knocked over and stood on in the terror.

The boy had already made attempts to scale the fence three times in the last two weeks at City of London Academy Highgate Hill, according to reports from pupils. Parents have questioned why there were not better security measures in place and why they had not been informed of any earlier transgressions.

Following a police chase of the boy, he was arrested. According to witnesses he was handcuffed and put in a police car.

In a letter sent to parents this afternoon (Tuesday), the Ashcroft Road school said they will be stepping up security and offering children counselling if they have been “adversely affected” by the incident.

The headteacher Prince Gennah has also pledged to hold a “parent surgery” for the next two weeks to discuss any concerns.

Footage recorded on students’ phones show dramatic scenes inside the school where children ran into the building, upturning chairs in the foyer and “trampling” over other students.

The incident has come at a difficult time for the usually high performing chain of City of London Academy schools, after their Highgate Hill branch was given a Requires Improvement Ofsted rating last month following concerns about leadership at the school.

The Academy has complained to Ofsted and is carrying out its own review.

Multiple parents picking up their children on Tuesday morning said they had concerns about safety at the school and were disappointed school leaders had not been what they described as more “transparent” with them.

They were angry the phone callsabout today’s incident had first come from their children as  they secretly rang their parents from a toilet cubicle.

The school sent out a text message at 8.50am that warned of “a situation” but insisted that “all students and staff who were on the premises were contained and safe”. They advised parents “school is running as normal”.

But later this morning Mr Gennuh sent out a further letter that said: “Earlier this morning, a non-attending individual climbed the perimeter fence and therefore presented as a risk. All students were swiftly escorted into the building and into the canteen and lounge. The police were immediately contacted whilst our Safer Schools Officer and staff intervened. Police quickly attended, and were able to locate the individual and place them under arrest.

“As soon as the risk was completely removed and the premises was deemed safe, all students returned to lessons as normal.

“Please be assured that no student or member of staff were harmed.”

He went on to acknowledge that while “this incident has unsettled our community,” he was  “confident that we will do what we do best: pull together and support one another.”

Pupils seen leaving the school with their parents in a steady stream all morning complained they were told to “calm down” by teachers and prepare for a normal day of learning, with many students still in the building when the Tribune attended the site.

Some parents were also concerned their children had left the building and headed for home as soon as the boy jumped the fence, but had yet to hear from school advising them their children were not on site that day.

One mother, whose son is in year 10 and saw the knife, said: “My child was in complete shock and was frightened for his life. He has said he doesn’t feel safe and doesn’t want to go back to school. If my child hadn’t contacted me I wouldn’t have known that he had left the school.”

A 14-year-old who was trampled during the stampede said she did not feel safe any more and was disappointed protective measures had not been put in place earlier.

She added: “The other times [he climbed over the wall] the teachers dragged him out [but] this time he got in and ran over and started running into the playground and was running towards two people and targeting a lot of other students as well. A lot of people got trampled. The teachers told us it was safer in the school than out there but how can that be if he is in here with us?”

Describing how she had gone into “panic mode” when she saw the knife, she said there needed to be “big improvements” at the school.

Another parent said he wanted to move his daughter to a different school. While his daughter said “you get used to [the disruption]” after it took an hour to get into class following the incident, she warned as this was the third time it had happened she was worried about her exams due to a loss of learning time.

“I don’t want my daughter to come here and see another child with a knife, it’s unfair,” the catering assistant added.

Another mother said “parents were worried” and wanted to be better informed about exactly what was happening at the school. “I was upset because they didn’t call me – it was my daughter who asked me to come and get her,” she said and warned had the boy had a firearm the situation could have played out differently.

“What happened in America could happen here. It could have been worse – it could have been something else,” she said.

A City of London Academies Trust spokesperson said: “An incident occurred at the City of London Academy Highgate Hill this morning in which a former pupil presented a risk to staff and students.

“Police were immediately contacted whilst our Safer Schools Officer and staff intervened to ensure the safety and security of our students. Metropolitan police officers attended, and the individual was arrested.

“Nobody was hurt during the incident and students returned to lessons as normal. Staff, students and parents/carers will continue to be supported following the incident.”

A police spokesperson said: “Police were called at 08:26hrs on Tuesday, 5 July to reports of a youth with a knife trying to climb the gates of a school in Ashbrook Road, N19.

Officers responded. Following a foot chase a boy, believed aged around 13, was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon.

There have been no reports of any injuries.”

Chief Superintendent Andy Carter, head of policing for Camden and Islington, said: “This was clearly a very concerning incident and my officers responded immediately to pursue and detain a suspect, who is now in police custody.

“We continue to liaise with the school and enquiries are ongoing.”

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