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Silence continues over inquiry into Columbine plot school

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Published by Local Democracy Reporter Stuart Minting at 11:59am 25th May 2019.

Children’s safeguarding bosses are continuing to refuse to respond to parents’ concerns over an alleged serious incident at a school where two pupils were found guilty of plotting a Columbine-style shooting.

  • A year after two schoolboys were convicted of a murder plot at their Northallerton school, parents of pupils say they are still angry about the handling of the incident
  • The school cannot be named because of court reporting restrictions - but parents say the school "played down" what happened
  • The council hasn't revealed any details about a "Learning Lessons" review, which examines how the multi-agency arrangements worked before and during the case

A year after Thomas Wyllie and Alex Bolland were convicted of planning to murder teachers and pupils at a school in Northallerton, no findings from the Learning Lessons Review by the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board’s executive have been revealed.

Last May parents of pupils at the school voiced anger over the handling of the alleged incident, which happened before the teenagers were arrested by counter-terrorism police.

The incident, which cannot be reported due to concerns it could break a court ruling that the school should not be named, triggered alarm among parents.

However, they claim the school issued a misleading letter to parents over the incident.

One parent, whose name is withheld, said:

“The school tried to play it all down, but there was a lot of concern about how this incident was handled.”

Other parents said the confidence they had in information given to them from North Yorkshire County Council-run schools had been shaken.

It is understood at least one complaint about the handling of the incident was later made to the director of children’s services at the council.

While headteachers, supported by governors, are regarded as lead professionals and are therefore responsible for the business of their schools day-to-day, local authorities have statutory duties to monitor overall standards and to hold schools to account.

Last May the council refused to comment on the incident, saying to do so would pre-empt the findings of a Learning Lessons Review by the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board executive, which includes the authority’s children’s services director and a senior North Yorkshire Police officer.

A year on, and despite facing numerous requests for comments about whether parents at the school were misled, the council has not revealed any details about the review, which has examined how the multi-agency arrangements worked before and during the case.

After hearing the concerns of parents were continuing to go unanswered, the council’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, said questions relating to the review’s findings needed answering.

He added:

“If lessons need to be learned they need to be learned in good time.

"The county council takes safeguarding very seriously and I will be interested to know the review’s findings.”

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said a wide-ranging review by the North-East Counter Terrorism Unit, into circumstances surrounding the plot, was ongoing.

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