Action promised after teenage suicide tragedies in Rotherham

Wickersley School in Rotherham'Picture Dean Atkins
Wickersley School in Rotherham'Picture Dean Atkins
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Action has been promised following a spate of teenage suicides in South Yorkshire – including tragedies among pupils at one school.

An independent review commissioned by Rotherham Council has made a series of recommendations after the deaths of four teenage boys since November 2011 and two other ‘severe self-harm incidents’ – one involving an 11-year-old girl.

Truman Edley, 15, who was found by his mother hanged at his South Yorkshire home. Coroner Fred Curtis gave the verdict of suicide

Truman Edley, 15, who was found by his mother hanged at his South Yorkshire home. Coroner Fred Curtis gave the verdict of suicide

The recommendations are expected to be approved at a council meeting next week.

The review was sparked following two suicides and a further self-harm incident involving pupils from Wickersley School and Sports College, on Bawtry Road, Wickersley.

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Oliver King on Harley Davidson, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina October, 2011;

Oliver King on Harley Davidson, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina October, 2011;

Truman Edley, who died aged 15 in November 2011, and 16-year-old Oliver King, who took his own life 15 months later in February 2013, both attended the school.

A 14-year-old boy from the school was involved in a further self-harm incident three months after Oliver’s death in February 2013.

The three boys are described in the new report as not being part of the same friendship group, but it said ‘they did all have one friend in common’.

Rotherham Council decided against launching a Serious Case Review following the deaths but an independent report was commissioned.

Concerns were raised last year by the families of Truman and Oliver about how Wickersley School responded to their sons’ deaths and claimed students ‘had been told not to talk about it’.

A 20-year-old ex-pupil of the school also took their own life in December 2012 in a separate incident.

Two further suicides involving teenage boys at different schools also occurred in Rotherham during 2013, with a 17-year-old dying in August and a 16-year-old taking his own life in December.

The self-harm incident involving the 11-year-old happened in March 2014.

None of the schools or children involved have been formally named in the review, with Wickersley referred to as School A throughout.

Following the deaths of Truman and Oliver in similar circumstances, a police investigation was launched but found there to be ‘no evidence of criminality’.

The new report, co-written by Dr Elaine Church and Dr Tony Ryan, said: “This was a complex situation within a national policy and guidance vacuum.”

It added: “The discovery of a potential link between two suicides at a school led to a sequence of events which was unusual, complex and very difficult for all concerned.”

The report noted some areas of good practice, with ‘overwhelmingly positive feedback’ for the police officers who dealt with bereaved families.

But concerns were raised that an investigation into potential links between suicides should have ‘commenced much earlier’, while there was no evidence of the school making formal communication with parents, students or other local schools about the events.

The report said there had been a ‘difference of opinion’ between council bosses and the school’s headteacher in how the incidents should be responded to.

It said the school had not recognised there were ‘significantly heightened anxieties about what was happening’ and the ‘problematic communications with the school has meant that the response has not been as effectively delivered as it could have been’.

But the report also noted the arrival of a new assistant head resulted in improvements.

As part of its response, Rotherham Council has created a suicide prevention action plan and a community response plan.

It is expected seven recommendations for improving processes made by the report will be approved by the authority’s Health and Wellbeing Board next week.

No one from Wickersley School was available for comment when contacted by The Star.

n To find out more about support organisations, visit www.rotherham.gov.uk/suicideadvice or go to www.samaritans.org.