MPs want inquiry into Ashford school after attack on black schoolgirl

MPs have demanded a school is investigated after a black pupil was injured in what police described as a serious racially-aggravated assault.

Distressing footage shared widely online showed the girl being punched, kicked and having her hair pulled.

It led to protests outside Thomas Knyvett College in Ashford by people concerned the school did not do enough to help her.

Head teacher Richard Beeson said “all necessary steps” were being taken.

The attack spilled into the road where the victim was set upon by a group of children as bystanders looked on.

Among the high profile names putting the spotlight on the school was British rapper Dave, who tweeted to his 866,000 followers that action should be taken against any staff members who didn’t protect the girl.

MP Janet Daby said she lost sleep after watching the footage, which prompted a protest outside the school attended by dozens of people.

The Labour MP for Lewisham East is one of a number of MPs to have signed a letter to the home secretary condemning the attack and Surrey Police’s description of it as “a fight” between girls.

In the letter, the MPs said: “Given that this attack is potentially racially motivated, the description of this incident by Surrey Police as a ‘fight between a group of girls’ wrongly misrepresents the seriousness of the incident and the impact such language may have on the black community.

“We therefore ask what discussions [the Home Office] has had with Surrey Police regarding this description and that this is corrected as a matter of urgency.”

Surrey Police has been approached by the BBC for a response to the MPs’ letter.

Speaking in parliament, Ms Daby asked that the Department for Education “look into what practices are not and are taking place in that school regarding safeguarding, and also address the professional performance of the school teachers”.

In response, Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons, said: “It is being investigated, and of course, those investigations are separate from government. Quite rightly so.

“I will write… to raise her concerns, to the secretary of state.”

‘Serious safeguarding questions’

In a statement shared on Twitter, the school’s head teacher, Richard Beeson, said: “We can assure you that we are taking all necessary steps to ensure this isolated incident is dealt with and that student safety is our paramount concern.”

The BBC has approached the school for comment.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Race Equality in Education tweeted: “We believe there are still some very serious safeguarding questions for the school to answer.”

Surrey Police officers were called to the junction of Salcombe Road and Stanwell Road in Ashford at 14:30 GMT on Monday.

Officers earlier described the incident outside Thomas Knyvett College as “distressing” and asked people not to share videos of it on social media.

A 39-year-old woman, a 16-year-old girl and two 11-year-old girls were arrested on suspicion of attempted racially aggravated grievous bodily harm (GBH).

A 43-year-old man and the 39-year-old woman were also arrested on suspicion of child neglect and intentionally encouraging and assisting the commission of an indictable only offence.

The 16-year-old girl was also arrested on suspicion of malicious communications.

Surrey Police said all those arrested have been released on bail until a date in March.

Ch Insp Dallas McDermott said: “We know this will be concerning and upsetting for the victims, their friends and family, and for the wider community who are understandably shocked and outraged at the violence in this video.

“I want to make clear that the suspects being bailed does not mean justice won’t be pursued further or achieved.”

A sixth suspect, a 15-year-old girl, is being urged to hand herself in.

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