THREE years on from her from tragic death, a Southampton school has finally issued an apology to the parents of a pupil who died after falling in front of a train.

Amber Jackson’s parents, Tony and Suzanne, received the formal apology from Bitterne Park School for their failure to safeguard the 15-year-old who took her own life at Bitterne Station.

A Department for Education investigation found that although the school had made arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of their pupils “those functions were not exercised with a view to safeguarding Amber Jackson”.

The investigation also found that the counsellor, from a private company employed by the school, failed to contact the school’s designated safeguarding leader after Amber had contacted her saying “I can’t go on like this...”.

The former Bitterne Park Primary School pupil was advised by the counsellor to see a GP.

On September 1, 2015, she ran into the path of a train which was travelling at 40mph.

At an inquest into her death her father said Amber had been put under too much pressure by the school in the run-up to her GCSEs.

Mr Jackson told the hearing, in February 2016, that his daughter – who was fond of Japanese culture – had been looking at websites that normalised suicide during school hours on school computers.

Following her death Amber’s family issued a statement saying: “Amber was our gem. She was bright, beautiful, funny and vivacious. She was kind and she was gentle.

Daily Echo:

PICTURED: Amber Jackson

“We will miss her always and be forever grateful for the short time we had her in our lives. She has left a void that can never be filled.”

Mr and Mrs Jackson were never satisfied with the school’s handling of the matter, singling out headteacher Susan Trigger and chair of governors, Kevin Turner – both of whom have since left – for criticism .

“We asked if the apology could come from Mrs Trigger and Mr Turner since we felt they really should be the ones apologising, but that was not offered,” Mr Jackson told the Echo.

Now the parents have received a full apology from the school’s new head Graham Wilson and current chair of governors Claire Doble.

Mr Jackson said: “For us this was a relief. A formal acknowledgement that mistakes had been made.

“Their apology we accept as sincere and genuine, and marks a turning point in our relationship with the school.”

He added: “Nothing can help us come to terms with losing Amber, whom we continue to miss immeasurably, but we can take some comfort from knowing that there have been significant changes at Bitterne Park School for the better.

“We think Amber would be proud of us for pursuing this as far as we have.

“We are pleased to report that a lot has changed at the school since Amber’s death.

“In our meetings with Claire Doble and Graham Wilson we have gone through the changes that have been made and ideas for future improvements.

“They have made a fundamental positive change to the management and direction at Bitterne Park School.

“We see them as people who have the best interests of their students at heart, and they have our every confidence.”

Since taking over in 2017, Mr Wilson has changed the school’s safeguarding, setting up a governance sub-committee which now oversees safeguarding. Safeguarding processes have been completely overhauled in line with legislation, and there are clear guidelines for counsellors and their appointment.

He said: “Bitterne Park School has apologised to Mr and Mrs Jackson for the way the school handled concerns raised in connection with Amber’s death.

“The new management team at the school has listened to Mr and Mrs Jackson and has made fundamental changes to the direction of the school to ensure that the wellbeing of our students is prioritised. This has been fully supported in all our recent Ofsted inspection visit and local authority monitoring.

“We will continue to liaise with Amber’s family to ensure that her memory is preserved at Bitterne Park School.”

The school has confirmed that an ecological area in memory of the music-lover will be made as part of landscaping work, which her parents see as a “touching idea” and they look forward to collaborating with the school.

It was reported last year that Ofsted inspectors were taken aback by the level of bullying at Bitterne Park, but a report in January showed progress had been made under Mr Wilson.


Daily Echo:

PICTURED: A floral tribute left at the railway station


Dear Mr & Mrs Jackson We refer to the various understandable complaints and investigations which took place, principally relating to Bitterne Park School and the provision of counselling support for Amber.

We fully acknowledge that you were not satisfied with the manner in which many of the investigations were carried out and how they were handled. Your various concerns consequently led to an in-depth investigation being undertaken by the Department for Education which resulted in a report dated 9th February 2018.

The Department for Education’s investigation was in-depth and made findings in respect of Bitterne Park School, many of which were adverse. Please be reassured that the findings are accepted in full, as are the recommendations.

We wish to expressly confirm that Bitterne Park School accepts that:

  • 1. It acted unreasonably by failing to recognise that counselling support was carried out by a member of the school staff, and therefore failed to take adequate steps to ensure proper training and/or adherence to the school’s safeguarding procedures and protocols.
  • 2. Whilst the school made arrangements to ensure that its functions were exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils, it failed to exercise a duty with a view to safeguarding Amber.
  • 3. Bitterne Park School failed to ensure that it had full regard to the statutory guidance - Keeping Children Safe in Education - as regards the employment status of counselling providers and therefore was in breach of its statutory duty.
  • 4. Bitterne Park School failed to have full regard to the department’s guidance - Best Practice Advice for School Complaints Procedures 2016 and therefore breached its duty in that regard.
  • 5. Bitterne Park School failed to adhere to its own policies and procedures when dealing with complaints and therefore acted in breach of its own policy.

Bitterne Park School wish to formally offer their sincerest condolences in respect of the tragic loss of Amber and apologise unreservedly for its failings and the distress that these failings caused to Amber and to your family.

Yours sincerely

Graham Wilson, headteacher

Claire Doble, chair of governors