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04.07.2004 Diaspora News

'Locked up' to protect his school friends

By icbirmingham.icnetwork.
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Birmingham, UK -- A 12 year-old public schoolboy has been placed under virtual house arrest after the headmaster branded him a health and safety threat.

Kofi Opoku was expelled from the upmarket Old Swinford Hospital school for fighting but an appeals panel later over-turned the boarding school's decision.

Now he has been labelled a 'health and safety risk' to other children and has been forced to follow 17 Draconian conditions by the school's headmaster.

The motto at Old Swinford Hospital school is 'Ut prosim vince mallum bono' which means 'Do not overcome evil with evil: overcome evil with good.'

But in the last few months that motto has looked increasingly tarnished with the headmaster accused of being 'vindictive.'

The bizarre list of conditions sees Kofi banned from visiting another boy's room or even eating with pals in the school's dining room. Other measures bar him from seeing friends and he even has to change alone before PE lessons.

Last night, headmaster Melvyn Roffe said the house arrest policy had been agreed "at the highest level".

But Kofi's mother says her boy has been persecuted while she coughs up more than £6,500 a year in school fees.

Old Swinford Hospital school in Stourbridge has a rich tradition as one of the top schools in the UK.

Founded in1667, it caters for around 550 pupils aged 11 to 18. Many head on to Oxford or Cambridge and famous expupils include actor Nick Bailey, who played Dr Anthony True-man in EastEnders.

Midland TV presenter Nick Owen also sent his son there.

Kofi Opoku joined the school in September last year after what his mother, Betty Anim-Annor, described as a flawless record at primary school in south-east London.

He quickly made friends and become the young star of Old Swinford's rugby side.

But after an incident with a fellow 12 year-old pupil in March, Kofi became an outcast as headmaster Mr Roffe decided to crack down on misbehaviour.

He expelled Kofi - only to see an independent appeals panel come down in the boy's favour following legal action by Miss Anim-Annor.

"Kofi loved Old Swinford and had no problems there," said Miss Anim-Annor, from Bermondsey in London.

"But one afternoon, the boys

started mucking about, rugbytackling each other.

"A scuffle broke out. As far as I know, no police action was taken over the incident and no hospital treatment was required for either Kofi or the other boy.

"All I know is that I was phoned by the school asking me to pick Kofi up. They said he had been expelled."

Miss Anim-Annor, a 36 year-old postal manager originally from Ghana, later hired a specialist education solicitor and won an independent appeal.

Mr Roffe then told Miss Anim-Annor that Kofi could

return - subject to a list of conditions fit to grace a Dickens novel.

"I was stunned to see them," she said. "They have him under house arrest. He is only 12 and it is extremely heavy-handed.

"Kofi has been treated appall-ingly by the school.

"The conditions mean he cannot see his friends.

"Many of them - including the boy involved in the original fight - have made it clear that they are glad to see him back.

"I find it an extraordinary way to treat a young child. The head is just being vindictive"

Miss Anim-Annor said that her solicitor was monitoring Kofi's treatment by Old Swinford.

But last night Mr Roffe remained unrepentant.

"These guidelines have been approved by the director of the Childcare Standards Commission, our lawyers and the local authority," he said.

"I cannot comment on the circumstances of Kofi's original expulsion, suffice to say that they were a little more severe than a scuffle." [email protected]


* He will reside in a single room in Baxter House.

* He will have no access whatsoever to Prospect House at any time.

* His tutor will be the housemaster of Baxter House, Mr. Andrew Hannah.

* Mr Hannah or another tutor will meet daily with him to ascertain his welfare and compliance with school rules and expectations.

* Staff will fill in a report sheet for every lesson to record successes and difficulties that he is having.

* He will be on school report and will see the deputy headmaster or one of the assistant heads every morning to ascertain his welfare and compliance with school rules and expectations.

* The school report form will be modified to enable him to report any difficulties he may be having with other pupils or members of staff.

* He will meet the headmaster once a week to discuss progress and his perception of his integration.

* He will not remain in school at outweekend.

* He will not participate on his chosen adventure week activity but will be supervised at school and given appropriate activities to do.

* His mother's main point of contact regarding Kofi's welfare will be Mr Hannah.

* Arrangements are to be reviewed on a weekly basis and modified depending on his record of behaviour and co-operation.

* He will be house-gated and will be expected to report regularly to the member of staff on duty in the boarding house.

* He will have full access to the public rooms of Baxter House but must not enter the rooms of any other boy, whether or not he has their permission.

* He will take his meals in the dining room at different times to Prospect House.

* He will change for sport and PE in the boarding house or as directed by Mr Hannah or Mr Jones.

* Arrangements for September will be agreed in the light of the experience of the rest of term but it will not be appropriate for him to share a bedroom with other Baxter House year eight boys next academic year. Alternative appropriate arrangements will therefore be made at the headmaster's discretion.