Worth School: MP Calls For Head's Resignation

28 January 2014, 15:41

The headteacher and chair of governors at a public school should resign for failings surrounding a pupil's death, a former minister has said.

William Avery-Wright, 13, died after he was knocked down by a 4x4 outside Worth School, near Turners Hill, Crawley, West Sussex, as he crossed a road to play in a rugby match.

The teenager's death was announced to parents by headteacher Gino Carminati before his father Christopher Avery-Wright had been told, MPs heard.

This led to messages of condolence arriving to Mr Avery-Wright via text while he travelled to the hospital.

Charles Hendry (Wealden) also told the Commons the school had breached its health and safety policy by not enforcing a rule to ensure an adult supervised pupils in year seven and eight while they crossed the road.

He said the school's risk assessment ranked the danger to pupils crossing Paddockhurst Road as high although they failed to remove the possibility of injury or harm.

Speaking during a debate on dangerous driving, Mr  Hendry (Wealden) claimed the Roman Catholic school should have been prosecuted following William's death in November 2011.

He said it was not too late for Mr Carminati and the chair of governors, Alda Andreotti, to show "genuine contrition'' to William's parents by resigning for "dismally'' failing in their duty to look after their son.

Mr Hendry added William's parents had also been let down by the Health and Safety Executive and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which had decided not to prosecute the school for a "catastrophic breach'' of its health and safety rules.

West Sussex County Council was also criticised by the MP for not dropping the road's speed limit from 60mph to 40mph until after William's death, despite receiving letters on the issue.

Mr Hendry told the Commons: "Most of all Mr and Mrs Avery-Wright have been let down in the most shocking and appalling way by the school following the loss of their only child.

"The headmaster who presided over the failure to enforce the school's own health and safety rules, which resulted in the death of a promising student, remains in post two years later.

"Throughout he has been supported by the chair of governors, Mrs Alda Andreotti.

"A school has a duty of care for its students. In this case, Worth Abbey failed that in the most devastating and tragic way.

"In over 20 years since I was first elected to this House I don't think I've ever called publicly for anyone's resignation.

"But I don't understand how two human beings - the headteacher and the chair of governors - whose primary duty should be the well-being of children in their care could possibly countenance staying in post when they have failed so evidently and dismally in those responsibilities with such tragic consequences.

"If they have any decency they would both have resigned as a matter of principle and it is still not too late for them to take that action to show their genuine contrition to William's parents.''

A verdict of accidental death was recorded at William's inquest last July.

Following the hearing it emerged his parents were suing the school, where William excelled at cricket, rugby and football, after claiming he should have been supervised by an adult across the road.

Worth School has previously said it published the information about the pupil's death in ''good faith'' but its initial belief that both his parents had been told about the tragedy turned out to be ''incorrect''.

Father Luke, Abbot of Worth Abbey, has responded on behalf of Worth School saying: "In contrast to Mr Hendry, there have been detailed investigations into all the circumstances surrounding the accident that caused William Avery-Wright’s death by the Police, Crown Prosecution Service and the Health & Safety Executive.

"All at Worth School, especially the Head Master and Chair of Governors, have been deeply affected by William’s death. The School has always accepted responsibility and apologised for its policy of adult supervision for years 7 and 8 crossing Paddockhurst Road not being followed on the day of William’s accident."

West Sussex County Council have told us that traffic calming measures were in place at the time of the accident.