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Norfolk’s coroner raises concerns over Hewett School after death of 12-year-old girl

07:47 27 August 2015

2012 picture of Isabel Richardson at Cavell Primary School in the schools allotment . Picture: Denise Bradley

2012 picture of Isabel Richardson at Cavell Primary School in the schools allotment . Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant

Norfolk’s coroner has raised concerns about the pastoral care at the Hewett School after the death of a 12-year-old pupil.

Isabel Ann Richardson self-harmed after struggling to cope with the death of her mother Karina who died from breast cancer in 2010.

She was found hanging by her father Stephen Richardson at the family home on Barrett Road, Norwich on the evening of May 12 and died on May 18 with him at her bedside in Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

At the inquest into her death at Norfolk Coroner’s Court today, coroner Jacqueline Lake said she had not heard clear evidence about the pastoral care in place at the Hewett School.

She said: “I place no blame on any individual, however I am concerned about the robustness of the structure of pastoral care at the Hewett for supporting pupils, particularly when it is known they have problems.”

Isabel had told her father around five weeks before her death about the self harming and, with him, started speaking to school staff, including a nurse, and was referred to bereavement charity Nelson’s Journey to tackle the problems. She was due to speak to a counsellor at youth service The Base the day after she was found.

Teachers described Isabel as a “happy, funny girl” who was “always laughing”, but she badly missed her mother and sometimes felt worthless.

Friends became concerned and one parent telephoned the school after Isabel posted photographs of self-harm on social media site Instagram.

Mr Richardson spoke to Isabel about the concerns and told the inquest: “She said she was okay ... And told me she has stopped cutting herself. She seemed a lot better since the meetings at the school.”

But around 6pm on May 12 he called upstairs to ask what she wanted to eat, and she did not reply.

He assumed she had her headphones in, but later her brother telephoned him after seeing more disturbing photographs on social media. Mr Richardson found Isabel hanging in her bedroom.

He said: “I was aware of her self harm, but I never thought for a second she would do anything like take her own life. I will always think I could have done more.”

The cause of death was brain injury, cardiac arrest and hanging. Norfolk’s’ coroner Jacqueline Lake recorded a short form narrative conclusion and not suicide. She said: “Although she hanged herself, this could have been a cry for help.”

The Inspiration Trust will take over the school as an academy on September 1. Its new headteacher Tom Leverage said: “The welfare of students is always uppermost in our concerns and we will carefully consider the coroner’s comments. We already take pastoral care very seriously but if there are things we can improve, we will.”

• For confidential support about issues involving depression call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90 or visit a local Samaritans branch.

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