Debenham teen’s ‘devastating’ exclusion three weeks before GCSE exams

Chloe Murray who was excluded from Debenham High School
Chloe Murray who was excluded from Debenham High School

A mother has criticised a school for excluding her daughter – just three weeks before her GCSE exams.

Karen Murray, of Wells Way, Debenham, said her 15-year-old daughter, Chloe, was excluded from Debenham High School after fellow students claimed that she had taken an illegal substance, despite later hospital tests suggesting otherwise.

Her ability to complete her Duke of Edinburgh award has been taken away from her based purely on hearsay

Karen Murray

“My daughter had been bullied for a period of two years and was eventually moved to different form groups and lessons,” said Karen, 37.

“I believe it was these students who informed the headteacher that she had taken a substance on the school site.”

She added that Chloe was taken to Ipswich hospital on the day of the incident, with subsequent tests showing no substances in her system.

“My daughter is a highly academic student and had good attendance,” she said.

“She has had to deal with many issues and no consideration has been given by the school to her mental health.”

Chloe’s father, Andrew Ferrie, died in an accident in 2008, while her friend, Joe Ellis, died in 2014, aged 13.

Karen says her Chloe’s exclusion has resulted in her being banned from the end of year prom and from completing her silver Duke of Edinburgh award.

“There is no chance of her going back,” she added. “We have appealed it, but the local council cannot help because the high school is an academy.”

“Her ability to complete her Duke of Edinburgh award has been taken away from her based purely on hearsay. The effect it has had on Chloe has been devastating.”

Debenham High School allowed Chloe to sit her GCSE exams, but not attend school or any end of year events.

In a statement, headteacher Julia Upton, while not commenting on the specific incident, said: “The decision to exclude a student for a fixed term is a rare occurrence at Debenham High School and is a decision that is not ever taken lightly.

“We have a very clear positive management of behaviour policy and the decision is taken where there is a serious breach of this policy.

“We have to consider the situation carefully, rationally, fairly and proportionately, taking into account the education and welfare of all students and staff within the school, as well as the individual concerned and their personal circumstance.

“The school’s policy fully takes into account all statutory guidance with regard to exclusions.

“Obviously any incident which involves an illegal substance and which disrupts the education of other students, especially when this is in close proximity to the start of their external examinations, is a serious matter.

“When we take school trips and visits at Debenham High School, we take the role of ‘en loci parentis’ very seriously.

“Unfortunately, sometimes the actions of students means that we have to consider if it is safe and appropriate for them to take part in some high risk activities.

“In the case of the remote supervision expected within the firm guidelines of Duke of Edinburgh Award, there must be a significant level of trust and responsibility placed on the students in a remote situation.”