IT IS Thursday at Birmingham’s Starbank Secondary School, and pupils in uniform gather on the field for what parents say is a regular extracurricular event.
But this is no football match or book club get-together at a school rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.
A ‘Thursday Fight’ to find the ‘hardest’ in field by Birmingham’s Starbank School[/caption]
‘Gangster’ pupils — some said to carry blades — slug it out at the ‘regular extracurricular event’[/caption]
Instead swaggering “gangster” pupils — some said to carry blades — slug it out bare knuckle-style at the so-called Thursday Fight to find the “hardest”.
This week the shocking weekly scrap burst on to social media as footage was released by a worried parent who found it on his son’s phone.
The fight is brutal and difficult to watch.
According to the anonymous dad it was a battle between the two “hardest” lads at the school.
Teachers are now so terrified of the bullies they have had panic buttons installed and some have gone on strike, fearing for their safety — hardly surprising, after complaints that members of staff have been threatened at knifepoint.
One teacher is said to have suffered a split lip after being punched by a Year 7 pupil aged only 11 or 12.
All this at a school that maintained its “outstanding” Ofsted rating as recently as May 2018, and where inspectors found safeguarding “effective”.
Worried parents, who want metal detectors fitted at the school gates, back the teachers’ walk-out, saying executive head teacher Satnam Dosanjh has “lost control”.
Mum Tina Seabright, 33, wants to withdraw her children Megan and Adam and said: “They come home and say they are getting bullied.
“It can’t be Outstanding if kids are bringing in knives and they are doing nothing about it. Sometimes Adam doesn’t want to go to school because he’s scared of the bullies. He used to love it.
“This school has gone right down. The head teacher has lost control.”
Son Adam, 12, added: “An 11-year-old boy brought in a flick knife. He went, ‘If you want me to stab somebody just tell me.’ He looked serious.”
Megan, 13, added: “Girls my age follow me around and threaten to beat me up. I was leaving school early because they threatened to batter me outside the gates.”
She is self-harming due to the bullying
Starbank student's mum Emma Wall
Starbank, previously Bierton Road School, was formed in 2015 from two primary schools and a secondary on three sites which were merged into one large institution.
After the school’s first “Outstanding” rating in 2012, some parents complained that they had not been allowed to speak to Ofsted inspectors and that unruly pupils had been kept out of sight during inspections.
And the parents’ concerns about bad behaviour have continued. Mum-of-five Saima Begum, who has a child at the school, said: “Obviously when the children are coming in carrying weapons, there’s the intention to hurt or scare somebody — that’s not how a school should be run.
“A school should not allow other children to come in and feel intimidated in any way because there are children coming in and acting like gangsters.
“Our children have been bullied for years and no action has been taken.”
Fellow mum Emma Wall, 34, said her 13-year-old daughter Sydney was traumatised by school bullying and added: “It’s got to the point where I’ve got a counsellor for her. It has affected her mental health.
“She is self-harming due to the bullying and I hold the school responsible. Sometimes she has to run home. It’s beyond a joke. What more is going to happen? Will somebody get stabbed?”
Shanty Begum, 44, and mother to a 15-year-old pupil, said: “There has been fight after fight.
“One boy in my son’s year had such a bad beating he had internal bleeding and bruising.
“They go outside the gates and fight there.
“A friend of my son is too scared to tell the police about it.
“His mother has spoken to the head teacher but nothing has happened. She drives him right up to the school gates then picks him up, for his own safety.”
A supply teacher said of the unruly pupils: “They decide what happens, when they want to come, when they want to go to lessons, when they want to work.”
So it is little wonder some teachers decided enough was enough and went on strike on Thursday, with a second strike planned for July 3.
Teaching union NASUWT’s local boss Paul Nesbitt said staff complained of pupils “coming into school with knives and threatening staff with weapons” and added: “One teacher was punched in the face by a Year 7 pupil and ended up with a split lip.
“Another woman was threatened with a knife, or shank, by a boy of between 11 and 13.
“The pupil was dealt with but the teacher came across the pupil in the corridor later. She felt very scared.
“One teacher said a pupil had threatened to attack her with a weapon last year but he was still at the school now.
“We didn’t want to strike but members said enough was enough. Hopefully parents will understand we’re trying to protect the pupils. They need to know what’s happening.”
A security guard has been hired and teachers now have panic buttons — a desktop shortcut on their computers which alerts the senior leadership team of incidents. Mr Nesbitt added: “Teachers are scared to come out of classrooms between lessons and don’t want to be in the corridors because they don’t want to come across the children.
“They don’t feel safe in school. They said they are reporting this to the leadership team and they are not taking appropriate action.”
The dad who found footage of the Thursday Fight on his lad’s phone said: “He said there are regular fights, and that some of the pupils encourage others to fight.
“He said the video was between the two hardest students at Starbank. He told me the teachers just stand by and watch it.
“I went into the school myself in November and witnessed children having a fight. Then, the teachers were just stood watching it too. They are frightened it might escalate if they get involved.”
The troubled school of around 2,000 pupils aged three to 16 is in the South Yardley area of East Birmingham and has the motto “Shaping Stars Of Today For Tomorrow”.
After its 2012 Ofsted inspection it had a short monitoring visit last year which raised no concerns and found its safeguarding “effective”.
It said the school provided an “outstanding quality of education”.
Outstanding schools are exempt from regular Ofsted inspections under rules introduced by former Education Secretary Michael Gove with the aim of freeing head teachers from bureaucracy.
Starbank uses the so-called Pivotal Approach to pupil behaviour — leading to concerns being expressed by the NASUWT.
Mr Nesbitt said it encouraged teachers to shake the hand of every pupil as they walked through the door and have 15-minute conversations instead of detentions.
He said: “Some might call it a soft, liberal approach. Some of the ideas, in principle, are good. But it doesn’t work for everyone.”
He added: “There’s been a lack of direction and support from the leadership. The head teacher is a nice lady and she’s doing her best but she’s from a primary school background. They are trying to use primary school policies for the secondary school.
“If you know students are being abusive and carrying knives, you would think there would be policies in place to challenge, but it’s not really there.” In a letter to parents Mrs Dosanjh said: “We would like to reassure you that pupil behaviour is well-managed and the school environment continues to be safe for both pupils and staff.
“While there have been isolated cases of knife possession in school such incidents are extremely rare and are dealt with in line with citywide safeguarding policies.”
Yesterday the school declined to talk to The Sun. Councillor Jayne Francis, cabinet member for education, skills and culture at Birmingham City Council, said the author-ity was “deeply disappointed” by the reports of violence at the school and added that it did not reflect the experience of students and staff.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Schools rated Outstanding by Ofsted are not exempt from accountability.
“The data we require every school to publish annually means they are more transparent than ever.
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“Where concerns are raised about the provision or outcomes at an Outstanding school, Ofsted has the power to immediately re-inspect.”
On Friday Mohammad Butt, 44, came to pick up his four children from the school and said: “My 15-year-old son was attacked by 20 boys outside here. He might have died if I hadn’t pulled them off.
“I’ve complained to the school dozens of times and reported that incident to the police. Now I’m fed up of the school not doing anything and I’m removing all my children.”
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