A group of concerned parents say they have questions about the running of their children’s school.
Issues of alleged bullying and safeguarding issues and problems with Washington Academy’s policy on exclusion and isolation have been raised by dozens of parents who gathered at a meeting with councillors.
A number of parents spoke of their children being excluded or isolated over incidents where they claim their child was the victim of bullying.
A lack of support for children with special educational needs and failings to deal with allergies correctly are among ‘deep concerns’ parents expressed.
Washington Academy has responded to issues raised by parents but says ‘these concerns are increasingly becoming the exception rather than the norm’.
One mother also spoke about taking her child out of school following an incident where an older pupil was carrying a knife.
Northumbria Police confirmed a youth was arrested and spoken to by officers.
A force spokesman said: “On January 24, we received a report of concern that a student may have been carrying a knife at Washington Academy.
“A youth was subsequently arrested and spoken to by officers.
“We will continue to work closely with the school to address any areas of concern and would encourage anybody who sees anything suspicious to contact police on 101.”
Last year staff at the academy took to the picket line over allegations of bullying.
At the time, a union official said there had been incidents of staff being verbally and even physically abused by pupils, but admitted the situation appeared to be improving.
The parents’ meeting was attended by Washington councillors Peter Walker, Jill Fletcher and John Kelly.
Coun John Kelly, who represents Washington North, said: “We were asked if we would attend this group meeting tonight and it’s really to find out what exactly has been going on, how it’s impacting on the children of our ward and as you’ve seen tonight there is a degree of anger around how the school has conducted itself.
“Now we want everyone to work together to try and resolve these issues but I understand the parents frustration because it does become difficult to get through the bureaucracy.
“But we will do everything we can in order to assist, tonight is the first night we’ve found out about it.
“I’m seeing serious safe guarding issues, I’m seeing a really bad policy on exclusion, I’m seeing issues around potential bullying and concerns around the general education of their children.
“Children get one chance at education if we don’t take it now, they will lose out for a long long time.
“Once we get some contact from the team we’ll speak with senior people in the organisation because it really needs to be escalated to the highest part of the organisation in order to address the issues especially safeguarding issues and special educational needs.
“All the areas need immediate address but them two need to be highlighted.
“We are ward councillors for Washington Academy and it has been difficult. I would dearly love the academy to talk to us and be genuine in their conversation.”
At the meeting, one parent spoke about their daughter being bullied and then excluded from the school when she finally retaliated.
Sue Hamilton, Acting Principal at the academy said: “While we are obviously saddened that members of the community feel the need to have to meet to discuss our school, we take great heart from the fact that there is clearly so much passion to see our school and our students grow and flourish.
“We would like to offer the reassurance that we share their enthusiasm for us to engage with our parents and our community. Prior to the meeting, for example, we already had a number of meetings in place with local councillors and the MP to discuss the progress that the school is making.
“Some of these meetings have already taken place and we were delighted to be able to show the positive impact that areas such as our SEN Unit is having.
“While some individual issues and cases were clearly expressed at the meeting, through our new leadership team and governance structure we are systematically driving up standards through challenging weaknesses and celebrating successes.
“While there is clearly still some work to do, and we will leave no stone unturned in our focus on school improvement, we believe that these concerns are increasingly becoming the exception rather than the norm.
“In fact, the number of people applying to our school has increased significantly this year. We see that as real validation of the progress that has been made.
“If any parents does, however, have any issues, then we would encourage them to come and meet with us.
“We also offer open tours so our community can come and see all that our students achieve. If anyone would like to come and see first-hand all that we offer, then please contact us. We would be delighted to welcome you.”