Hammer attack school failed to recognise racist incidents


A serious case review into a hammer attack on a white boy by a Muslim gang found the school failed to recognise a series of racist incidents before the assault, it was revealed today.

Henry Webster was 15 when he was punched, kicked and beaten with a claw hammer on the tennis courts at Ridgeway School in Wroughton, near Swindon, Wiltshire, in 2007.

The vicious attack, carried out by an Asian gang of schoolboys and young men, left Henry with a skull fracture and brain damage from which he is still recovering.

The report, released yesterday by Swindon’s Local Safeguarding Children Board, says Ridgeway failed to tackle growing tensions between Muslim and white teenagers at the school.

It says problems arose after the local council began integrating Muslim children into the rural school after the 7/7 bombings, resulting in a riot on the playing fields in May 2006.

The damning review accuses Ridgeway, referred to as ”School 1”, of ”keeping things to themselves” after repeated incidents that should have been recognised as ”racist” and reported to external agencies.

It says: ”School 1 knew well in advance that a significant number of British Asian pupils were joining the school in September 2005.

”They did not prepare for this which was soon after the London bombings in July 2005.

”The likely influence of all pupil’s communities and families on pupil behaviour was not understood or challenged by School 1.

”The repeated incidents to mid-2006 were not recognised as racist by School 1 senior managers at the time.

”It would appear that a number of senior members of staff still do not see this as a racist incident.

”School 1 kept things to themselves and external opportunities to intervene and better understand what was actually going on in the school were not grasped.”

On January 11, 2007, Henry Webster agreed to an arranged fight with an Asian boy at his school after what he perceived as the continued harrassment of himself and his friends.

But he was pointed out by four schoolboys to three Asian men who had arrived in cars.

During the ensuing one-minute attack Henry, a keen rugby player, was hit with six blows from a hammer produced by one of the men.

He was left with a depressed skull fracture and brain damage from which he is now, aged 18, still recovering.

In 2008 seven young men were convicted for wounding Henry with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm, and a further six were convicted of conspiracy.

Four were pupils from the school. The ringleader, Wasif Khan, 18, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

The review has issued a recommendation that schools nationwide must record the ethnicities of both bullies and victims in a bid to monitor for patterns of racism.

Henry’s mother Liz Webster, however, criticised the report as a ”whitewash” that fails to address ”urgent” racial tensions in Swindon.

She said: ”We are very concerned that the report has failed to address many of the failings which surrounded our family’s treatment throughout this terrible episode in our lives.

”There were failures at virtually every level of the case from the police, to the Crown Prosecution Service to the behaviour of individual teachers.

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

”The review doesn’t mention what needs to be done to improve race relations in Swindon which is an urgent concern considering the increase in the vote for the BNP.

”We also firmly believe that the entire report should be published in full. We will be extremely angry if this does not happen on Thursday.”


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