Head to meet parents after ‘ex-student’ knife terror in school grounds

Pupils ‘trampled’ over each other to escape

Friday, 8th July — By Charlotte Chambers

City of London Academy Highgate

The City of London Academy Highgate School

PARENTS have been invited to meet teachers at an Archway school over their security concerns after a “former student” climbed over its fences and ran through the grounds with a foot-long butcher’s knife.

The City of London Academy Highgate Hill said there would be a “parent surgery” over the next fortnight to discuss the incident, which unfolded on Tuesday morning.

Onlookers said a boy was led away in handcuffs after a terrifying sequence of events that saw a stampede as children searched for safety inside the school. There were reports that a suspect had made previous attempts to get into the school in recent weeks.

In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday, the Ashbrook Road school said they will be stepping up security and offering children counselling if they have been “adversely affected”.

Headteacher Prince Gennuh has also pledged to meet parents.

Footage recorded on students’ phones shows dramatic scenes inside the school, where up to 200 children began running into the building at the same time, upturn­ing chairs in the foyer and reportedly “trampling” over other students in a bid to get out of the way of a boy with a knife.

The incident could not have come at a worse time for the usually high performing chain of City of London Academy schools with its Highgate Hill secondary given a “Requires Improvement” Ofsted rating in June. The Tribune reported last month how the school had complained about its treatment from inspectors.

Several 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 more “transparent” with them about what had happened on Monday.

They were angry that it was their own children who sent SOS phone calls, forced to hide in toilet cubicles to make secret calls after they were told not to use their mobiles in class.

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”.

Later that morning Mr Gennuh sent out a further message that said: “Earlier this morning, a non-attending individual climbed the perimeter fence and was 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.

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 said she was trampled on during the stampede, 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 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.

But there were also parents at the gates who defended the school, insisting they were happy sending their children there and their children were happy to go there.

A City of London Academies Trust spokesperson said: “An incident occurred at the City of London Academy Highgate Hill Tuesday 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.”

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