School defends bullying policy following inquest into death of 13-year-old former pupil Arin Lyth

Northfield School has defended its bullying policy.
Northfield School has defended its bullying policy.

A school has defended its approach to bullying after a 13-year-old boy became its third pupil to die in similar circumstances in the space of 12 months.

Arin Lyth, 13, was found hanging from a tree after being abused by bullies at Northfield School and Sports College, in Billingham.

Fellow pupil Harry Gray, 15, was also found hanged in April 2016 after being bullied and Elton Harland, 13, a school friend of Harry’s, was found dead at home just days later after he tweeted a tribute to his pal.

In an inquest into his death this week, Arin's family criticised Northfield School for its 'dismissive, arrogant' response when the bullying was first reported.

However, the school has insisted it treats the issue with the 'utmost urgency and sympathy'.

A spokesperson for Northfield School and Sports College said: “This was a tragic incident and our thoughts are very much with Arin’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“We can assure people that nothing is more important to us than the safety and wellbeing of our students and that we treat any report of bullying with the utmost urgency and sympathy.

“Ofsted inspectors visited the school last summer and again in March this year – on both occasions, inspectors carried out extremely detailed inquiries, with a strong focus on our approach to tackling bullying and on both occasions, inspectors were very confident in our approach.

“The second, most recent inspection identified a ‘strong culture of safeguarding’ at the school, reinforcing the findings of the first, which found that students feel safe in school, feel that serious bullying is exceptionally rare and that the school deals with all types of bullying swiftly.

“Of course, none of this lessens the sense of sadness we feel and we are far from complacent.

“We continually review and develop the support available to our students so that we can respond to the changing pressures in young people’s lives.”

Arin had a condom rubbed in his face, was told to slit his wrists and endured cruel taunts on social media in the months leading up to his death.

An inquest into his death at Teesside Coroner's Court heard that the family was disappointed with the response of the school to Arin's ordeal, and withdrew him from Northfield when no decisive action was taken.

He switched schools to Northshore Academy, in Stockton, last December, but the inquest heard he was targeted by another pupil there.

Arin's body was found in January this year hanging from a tree in a field behind his home in Billingham. The cause of death was confirmed to be pressure to the neck.

Teesside Assistant Coroner Jo Wharton recorded a conclusion that Arin had committed suicide.