Wroughton school 'failed to spot racism' before attack

Henry Webster - Wiltshire Police
Image caption Henry Webster was punched, kicked and hit with a claw hammer

A school where a boy was attacked with a hammer failed to recognise a series of racist incidents prior to the assault, a serious case review has found.

Henry Webster, then 15, suffered three skull fractures in the attack by a group of Asian youths in 2007.

His mother Liz Webster said the review showed the school was at fault.

Mr Webster, now 18, was punched, kicked and hit with a claw hammer at Ridgeway School, in Wroughton, near Swindon.

Mrs Webster said: "This review has confirmed our belief that the Ridgeway School was responsible for the horrific, devastating assault on our son which has left him with permanent injuries.

"The criticism of the local authority is tantamount to a whitewash as it is so minimal and limited."

'Racist behaviour'

Before the attack, Mr Webster had agreed to fight a boy "one on one" due to peer pressure and to stop harassment he thought he and his friends were experiencing.

He has returned to part-time education, but still suffers from short-term memory loss.

The report summary, published by the Swindon Local Safeguarding Children Board, said: "The school, although it knew in advance, did not prepare for the arrival of a significant number of British Asian students in 2005."

The review, which made 32 recommendations for action, also found there were some incidents between white and British Asian pupils which were not recognised as racist by the school.

The summary said there was some success in addressing the racist behaviour of some white pupils, but the approach was not extended throughout the school.

It said: "The school, by trying to deal with these incidents themselves, missed the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what was actually going on through external intervention.

"Other agencies did not challenge robustly the school's approach or its procedures."

Mrs Webster claimed the school's race relations policy "was not worth the paper it was written on".

She said: "There was no cohesive approach to dealing with matters of race.

'Dreadful attack'

"Whilst Henry has been the primary victim, we are and always have been of the firm belief that this school also let down the young Asian pupils who were eventually prosecuted for this attack.

Image caption A spokesman from the school said the attack could not have been foreseen

"They have been criminalised and demonised - had their integration been properly handled we are certain this attack would not have happened."

Thirteen people, including teenagers, were convicted over the assault on the tennis courts at the school in 2008 and given custodial sentences.

Mr Webster's family launched civil proceedings against the school, which affected the completion of the serious case review. They lost a battle for compensation at the High Court in February.

Ofsted has rated the school as outstanding since the attack.

A spokesman from Ridgeway School, in Wroughton, said: "We could not have foreseen or prevented the dreadful attack on Henry Webster.

"We are sorry that the family feel that they were not supported adequately following the attack.

He said the school had noted the report's recommendations and looked to improve its practice.

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