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Pupils go on rampage at city school
PARENTS, teachers and union leaders are calling for urgent action after dozens of pupils went on the rampage leaving a trail of destruction at one of Southampton’s newest schools.
Eyewitnesses said that around 150 teenagers caused hundreds of pounds of damage after running through the corridors armed with bits of wood, smashing windows and trying to rip plasma television sets off walls.
Insiders say discontent has been simmering among pupils and staff since the school was formed in September by the merger of Grove Park and Woolston schools.
Teaching unions have threatened to ballot for industrial action if school chiefs fail to address their concerns about problems caused by timetables and the travelling between the two sites.
It is understood that they have set a deadline of November 3 for changes to be brought in.
The disturbance broke out at Oasis Academy Mayfield’s upper school site in Woolston during break time.
Police received a call about the incident from a mobile phone but when officers telephoned the school they were told that it was a “minor disturbance” and police were not required.
It came two days after a pupil allegedly threatened a woman teacher with a knife used in the school’s science lessons.
Police have launched an investigation into that alleged incident which is said to have happened in the classroom.
The school insists that no more than 40 students were involved in the disturbance last Thursday, no televisions or computers were damaged and repairs have already been completed.
Parents of pupils involved in the incident were called in to take their children home from school.
One parent,who did not wish to be named, said her children witnessed the rampage.
She said: “It started off as a demonstration to say being joined with Grove Park isn’t working, but turned into a riot with kids running through the corridors with bits of wood, bursting into classrooms and smashing windows all over the place.
“My kids said there were just loads of them. None of the kids are happy there.
They’re not happy with the way things are, so thought they would do a protest.”
Another person who contacted the Echo anonymously said: “Tensions have been rising since the start of term after the merger of the school with the former Grove Park/Weston Park Boys School in Grove Road.
“Many teachers are also unhappy with the disorganisation of the how the school is run.
“The pupils are also unhappy at the changes in the school.”
Bosses at the school considered the incident so serious that Oasis founder Steve Chalke visited the academy the day after to speak to pupils at the Woolston site.
Speaking about the latest incident principal Ruth Johnson said that when the lesson bell rang “a small minority” of students remained outside in the playground before some went into the building attempting to cause a disturbance.
She added that senior staff brought the situation under control within a very short space of time.
She said: “It is unfortunate that a small group of students and parents are refusing to accept that the predecessor schools have now closed and that the academy has actually come into being.
“The ringleaders involved in the incident have been severely sanctioned.
The majority of our students have responded positively and maturely to the changes.
“We have significant support from most of our parent body who want to work with us in focusing on our core purpose of teaching and learning.”
Mrs Johnson said that the school had firm guidelines and boundaries in place and that students were not out of control.
Some students have been excluded from the school but it is not known exactly how many.
In a separate lunchtime demonstration last week pupils on the former Grove Park site called for their own schools back.
Mrs Johnson said on that occasion the students returned to classes immediately after senior staff told them to go to lessons.
Meanwhile parents have complained that teachers working across the academy’s two sites are not arriving on time for lessons because they keep missing the link bus.
One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “When they miss the bus link they leave pupils unsupervised in classrooms to play on computers.”
Mrs Johnson admitted that there had been problems as staff got used to the new bus link system between the two sites.
She said: “On a very few occasions there were problems with the buses, but senior staff transported teachers in their own cars.
“Now that teachers have become accustomed to travelling between the two sites, we don’t foresee any further issues.”
Councillor Peter Baillie, Southampton’s Cabinet member for education said: “The predecessor schools have closed.
“We have a new academy. It’s time for all pupils and all staff to move on and ensure that the new academy is a success.”
- See today's Daily Echo for the full story.