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Girl caught with knife at private St Joseph’s Convent Preparatory School in Gravesend

The head teacher of a private primary school has denied claims of a bullying culture after one child was caught carrying a knife.

Police were called to St Joseph’s Convent Preparatory School in Gravesend on March 21 after a girl was found with the blade in her schoolbag.

A parent’s claim the girl had done it to “deal with a bullying incident themselves”, was denied by head teacher Carola Timney.

Parents at St Joseph's Prep School were concerned before the report
Parents at St Joseph's Prep School were concerned before the report

She said: “The incident in question was dealt with immediately.

“It is unfortunate that a parent, having sought the support of other parents, has decided to raise it again.

“The statements that have been made by these parents are not accurate and misrepresent both the child concerned and the actions taken by the school.

“The safeguarding and well-being of every child in our school is of paramount importance and will always be our first priority.

“Bullying is not tolerated at St Joseph’s. We have a clear policy in place and treat all reports very seriously.”

Mrs Timney said the knife was removed from the classroom within three minutes of the child being in school and the child had left the school immediately. No police involvement was needed.

The school sent a letter to parents to make them aware of the March 21 incident, but it did not detail its nature.

Parent Jatinder Singh sent a copy of the letter to the Messenger amid his concerns the school was not doing enough to tackle bullying.

Mr Singh says he was forced to take his son out of the school after three years of problems.

The headteacher has denied the claims. Picture: Steve Crispe
The headteacher has denied the claims. Picture: Steve Crispe

“Our son has been the victim of ongoing bullying for three years and has suffered anxiety, severe headaches and been made to feel worthless,” he said.

“On numerous occasions we attended the school to liaise with teachers and the head teacher but to no avail.

"The school kept brushing the issue under the carpet. We were left with no option but to remove our son from the school.”

He claimed other parents had done the same.

“There have been many other children driven out of the school due to the lack of support from the school.

"Children are being pulled out middle of the term because they are becoming victims of bullies both verbal and physical.”

Another parent, who did not wish to be identified, backed Mr Singh. They took their daughter out of the school in September.

“All we kept getting was promises to look into the situation and excuses made on behalf of the principal bully,” they said.

“It is heartbreaking as a parent to see your child suffer. It’s even worse when you are the one that chose that institution for the child and are paying for the privilege.”

Mrs Timney denied the bullying claims and said that such relationship issues were common in all schools.

She said: “Peer relationship issues are part of growing up and learning how to handle them is part of the formation of a child.

“There are times when we have to step in to support children in managing this.

“Occasionally relationship issues take longer to resolve and require greater intervention on the school’s part, including working in partnership with the parents.

“If this does not happen, the issues may become further exacerbated, thus protracting the process of resolution.

“Understandably, when a child is upset, parents become anxious and want to see action taken immediately, sometimes before the situation has been thoroughly addressed.

“We make sure to fully investigate and take appropriate action once informed conclusions have been reached.

"We work hard to ensure that parents are communicated with and involved at every stage.”

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