Cheshire East Council

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School carries out “substantial and rigorous changes” to improve student safety following the death of a pupil

Measures to improve student safety have been implemented at a school criticised by a coroner over the death of a pupil.

A spokesperson for Stepping Stones School, in Hindhead, Surrey, said the school community had been devastated by the death of Frankie Thomas in 2018.

The BBC has reported that assistant coroner Karen Henderson recorded a suicide verdict on Ms Thomas, who was 15, who died at her home after viewing explicit self-harm material for several months on a laptop and iPad provided at the school and which her teachers mistakenly believed had internet filters in place.

Ms Henderson said failures by the school and the Wattpad website “more than minimally contributed” to her death.

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She said Stepping Stones had since appointed a new e-safety manager and carried out “substantial and rigorous changes” in how it manages online safety.

But there had been “a lack of adequate direction” from the Department for Education on implementing e-security, leaving it a bit like the “wild west”.

Ms Henderson said she would write to the department suggesting a more robust approach with minimum standards.

The school’s statement said: “Stepping Stones School is committed to providing young people with high quality education, training, therapy and pastoral care to help them reach their full potential, in a safe environment.

“It was recognised in the summary today that since the tragedy, we have been proactive in implementing new and highly robust e-safety measures to ensure the welfare and safety of all our pupils.

“Our school leadership team monitors these structures regularly as part of our ongoing priority of providing a safe, secure and positive learning environment for our pupils.”

Mark Smulian

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