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Cults Academy Tragedy: What the Council is allowed to say

Following the tragic incident at Cults Academy in October 2015, a wide range of questions have understandably been raised.

Due to the perpetrator being under the age of 18, his identity is protected by law – we cannot therefore answer questions that could lead to his identity being revealed. In addition Aberdeen City Council is unable to disclose, without permission, information about children's school careers due to data protection rules. However, for evidence that was revealed as part of the court case, we may be able to provide information on.

As a result of the complex issues raised by the case as well high levels of public interest, the council along with partners in the Police and NHS have commissioned an independent review. The terms of reference and details of the independent chair will be issued as soon as possible. As well as learning vital lessons, this review is intended to answer many of the concerns that have been asked on social media and via the print and broadcast media.

Listed below are a series of questions we have answered previously plus some new ones following the end of the trial – but we cannot answer questions that risk breaching Data Protection and the requirement for anonymity as set out by the court. This page will be updated as progress is made.

In the meantime, we wish to reinforce that Aberdeen City Council's policies and procedures are intended to ensure the safety of the city's children and that incidents involving weapons and/or violent incidents are some of the lowest in Scotland. Crime in Aberdeen fell by 10% between 2013/2014 and 2014/2015.

Questions the council is able to answer

Specific questions about the perpetrator and his school history cannot be answered due to data protection and because of the statutory requirement to not identify those involved in any part of court proceedings who are under 18.

  1. Does Cults Academy have a major drugs problem?
    Cults Academy is one of the highest performing schools in Scotland and does not have a 'drugs problem'. The school has a zero tolerance approach to drugs and teachers are always vigilant for any warning signs. School policies are also clear and the Personal and Social Education (PSE) programme, which is a mandatory part of the curriculum for first to sixth year pupils at all of our secondary schools in Aberdeen, also includes modules warning on the dangers of drugs.
  2. What is the school's policy on bullying?
    The school has an anti-bullying policy and actively respond to any concerns from young people. The school's anti-bullying policy can be accessed here  Cults Academy Respect Policy.
  3. Why didn't the school stop the bullying?
    As stated by witnesses during the court case was no history of bullying in this case and none was reported to the school.
  4. Why didn't the school or teachers know about or find his knives and knuckledusters considering the amount of times he had them in school?
    The perpetrator was convicted of being in possession of knives and knuckle dusters while at school on a number of occasions between August 2014 and October 2015. The Court heard during the trial that this was not reported to Cults Academy staff.
    Had it been reported it would have been appropriately dealt with, the relevant authorities notified and action taken. Where any such incidents take place in schools, there are a variety of appropriate responses that will be considered. The safety of pupils is of paramount importance and we actively encourage pupils to report any behaviour of concern to school staff.
  5. Why wasn't there earlier intervention?
    In cases such as this and where concern has been previously identified, families are often offered support via a range of agencies including the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration as well Educational and Children's social services. We cannot reveal details about specific interventions because of a duty of confidentiality.
  6. What medical assistance is available in schools?
    All schools have trained first aiders as part of their staff.
  7. How can you guarantee the safety of pupils, considering school is supposed to be a safe place for youngsters?
    Aberdeen City Council takes school and pupil security very seriously. There is a 5 year programme on enhancing school security, a group meets each term to review school security, and Aberdeen City Council is also working with Police Scotland on this issue.
  8. What policies or procedures have been put in place in the school or council-wide since the incident?
    Policies already exist for dealing with violent/dangerous incidents throughout schools and council-wide.
    Cults Academy operates a Respect Policy, which states 'our aim is to ensure that in their goal to achieve and attain highly each pupil feels valued, respected and safe. Bullying is a wilful, conscious attempt to hurt, to threaten or to frighten someone else and such behaviour is unacceptable in Cults Academy.'
  9. Why aren't you taking part in the No Knives Better Lives campaign? How do you stop knives etc. from being cool?
    We have an exceptionally low level of incidents involving knives in Aberdeen schools and little or no history of such crime in the city. This is reflected in the local policing statistics for Aberdeen.
    As a result, Aberdeen was not one of the minority of local authorities (11) from the 32 across Scotland to take part in the 2009 No Knives Better Lives Scottish Government initiative.
    Many of the issues that were covered in the campaign are included in our Personal and Social Education (PSE) programme, which is a mandatory part of the curriculum for first to sixth year pupils at all of our secondary schools in Aberdeen.
    PSE aids pupil development to adulthood and covers themes such as relationships and coping with stress, while there are also clear and established policies in place against bullying.
    In addition, a new shared fund to provide more school based offices has been established and the existing school-based police team are going to be redesigned to better meet needs.
    Police Scotland and Aberdeen City Council are also working on a new joint professional training programme for staff.
  10. How many knife incidents have there been in Aberdeen Schools?

    Aberdeen City Council has for several years provided information through FOI requests about weapons or improvised weapons which were present or used during a violent incident by a pupil. The total figures from 2012/13 to 2014/15 have a total of 191 incidents. Items listed as weapons in these FOI answers have included maracas, pencils, a sports bib, playing cards, a tomato, and a selection of Mr Men toys.

    Since 2012/2013, there has been four knives present during these incidents with pupils, from the 47 primary and 12 secondary schools in Aberdeen.

    Here are the FOI responses in full:-
    FOI-15-1459 - Weapons Confiscated in Schools
    FOI-15-1281 - School Expulsions