PARENTS of an eight-year-old primary school pupil were shocked after being called in for questioning by a head teacher over concerns the youngster could be in danger of being “radicalised.”
The school has been accused of over-reacting when Rhys Atkinson said he “wanted to fight terrorists” after watching an item featuring the Syrian refugee crisis on television news.
St Michael and All Angels
Teachers referred Rhys to Wirral Council's children's safeguarding hub over their fears he could be "radicalised."
Dad Mark Atkinson was approached by staff at St Michael & All Angels in Upton as he waited at the school gate for his son.
Mr Atkinson said: “I was called in for a meeting with the head and couldn’t believe what she was telling me.
“I was so much in shock I could barely speak.
"How could the school believe my eight-year-old child could be a terrorist?”
He continued: "The school has been raising money to help with the refugee crisis.
“Rhys came home and told me his form teacher had explained how the crisis had begun.
“I sat him down and we discussed it.
“The next day he went in to school and said he wanted to fight terrorists - then all of a sudden it's being implied by his teachers that he is one.”
Mr Atkinson said staff informed him that several schools in the borough had been visited by counter-terrorism police and told to "look out for signs of radicalisation.”
Wirral Council’s children’s social care multi-agency safeguarding hub was informed of Rhys's remark.
A letter sent from the department to Mr Atkinson states it has "information in relation to some comments made by your son in school in relation to terrorism.”
The letter continues “it has also been brought to our attention he plays a violent video game” - an accusation that has been strongly denied by the child’s mother.
Mum Louise, 35, who has separated from Mark, explained Rhys has never played this type of game and had only seen packaging after her partner left one out.
She said the “terrorist” ordeal had been very distressing: “He is very shocked. We all are
"He is putting on a brave face but was confused and didn’t understand if he can still go to school.
“I think they should react to a young child's naive comments like adults and not jump to crazy conclusions. It is idiotic.
"He's an intelligent boy, I just don't understand how they can accuse him of being a terrorist.
"Rhys has been worrying about what he said and says he would never hurt anyone, he just wanted to help.
“I'm furious - I've told him he's done nothing wrong.
"it's completely out of order."
The Globe asked the school to respond but we were directed to Wirral Council.
Julia Hassall, director of children’s services, said: “Because there is a child at the centre of these claims we cannot comment other than to say we will be looking into Mr Atkinson’s claims.
“We will be looking to get the parents, school, and a representative of the multi-agency safeguarding hub together so that we can resolve what has happened to the satisfaction of all concerned.
“The education and well-being of our pupils is paramount and will be the focus of our discussions.”
Mr Atkinson told the Globe the school has since telephoned him to request a meeting but the family did not feel comfortable attending.