PUPILS as young as eleven at a brand-new free school are being taught on the same site where older students have been allowed to continue their studies despite committing drug and violence offences, it has been revealed.
According to a freedom of information request, Richmond College, which shares a site with Richmond upon Thames School, have temporarily removed 39 students for the offences over the last three years.
However, these students are being allowed to return to the college up to a week later after serving a suspension.
Richmond upon Thames School, which opened its doors to year 7 cohort in September this year, is currently sharing learning space and recreational areas with Richmond College. The school will move to a self-contained site, with a secure line from Richmond College, in June 2018, headteacher Kelly Dooley said.
In total, 126 students have been suspended at the college over the last three years, with 41 cases in the last academic year.
This is in addition to the 28 students expelled, of which 12 were in the last academic year.
Richmond Councillor, Ben Khosa, Opposition Spokesperson for Community Safety said that similar concerns were raised when the matter came to the Planning Committee. He added: “At the time we were assured the design is as such as there is segregation between older and younger children.”
The Colleges disciplinary procedure states students will normally be allowed to return to their studies after serving a suspension of up to a week, though this can be extended.
It states: “A suspension will normally be for no more than seven days in the first instance but a period of suspension may be extended subsequently if authorised by the Head of Student Services.”
Possession of a Class A drug can carry a maximum prison sentence of up to seven years, according to the government website.
The college disciplinary also states that criminal offences may be reported to the police. It states: “Where a member of staff suspects that a student may have committed a criminal offence, the College may refer the matter to the police.”
Richmond upon Thames School headteacher Kelly Dooley, said: “We are confident our interim accommodation solution is serving as an excellent, safe learning space, with specialist facilities for our founding Year 7 students until our permanent building is ready in June 2018.
“While our permanent building and grounds will be self-contained and separated from the College by a secure line, we are looking forward to the opportunities afforded through the close proximity to all our School Trust and site partners.
She added: “We are confident that our site arrangements are safe.”
MP Sir Vince Cable said: “The level of suspension and exclusion appears high but this is also a large college with annual enrolment of around 2500). This result also reflects a tough, zero tolerance, approach for which the principal and his staff are to be commended.
He added: “I would add that FE colleges, by their nature, take in a more challenging intake than local school sixth forms. And the college has a wider catchment area including some of the tougher areas of West London.”
Principal and CEO of Richmond upon Thames College Robin Ghurbhurun said: “Richmond upon Thames College is one of the safest college campuses in London.
“Richmond upon Thames College’s student cohort is not unique and many state and private schools, colleges and universities throughout London experience drugs and anti-social behaviour incidents.
“The proportion of incidents that have occurred at the college over the last three years is very low relative to total student numbers.
“This information clearly demonstrates the college’s zero tolerance approach to drugs and anti-social behaviour and serves to provide assurance of this to the wider local community.”