Vince Cable praises college’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach (but is accused of blaming violence and drug abuse on pupils from deprived areas)

Twickenham’s MP Sir Vince Cable has praised college staff for their ‘zero tolerance’ approach to drugs and violence while he has been accused of blaming incidents on pupils from deprived areas in West London.

A Freedom of Information Request revealed that 126 pupils from Richmond upon Thames College have been suspended from the school in the past three years, while 28 were expelled.

Nine were suspended and eight were expelled for “drug related” reasons, while 30 pupils were suspended and 11 expelled for “violence”.

The results of the FOI were sent to the Lib Dem leader and he responded via email.

He replied: “The level of suspension and exclusion appears high but this is also a large college with annual enrolment of around 2,500.

“This result also reflects a tough, zero tolerance, approach for which the principal and his staff are to be commended.

“I would add that FE colleges, by their nature, take in a more challenging intake than local school sixth forms.

“And the college has a wider catchment area including some of the tougher areas of West London.”

Campaigner James Giles, who submitted the FOI and sent it to the Twickenham MP, said: “Vince Cable appears to be a man that is detached from reality.

“He cannot even conceive that these shocking crimes could have been committed by his own ‘wealthy’ middle class constituents.

“Rather than seeking to pass the buck, and placing the blame on those from deprived areas in west London, his concern should be with the parents at Richmond upon Thames School who I’m sure will be legitimately concerned about the violence and drug abuse taking place on the same site where their children are being taught.”

Sir Vince stands by his comment, which he said was “simply making a statement of facts and this reflected the assessment of the police and the college authorities that the small number of serious offenders had come from outside the borough”.

Sir Vince said the school, which he describes as “one of the best in London”, has been “very successful under the current principal in dealing with behaviour issues” and “the diverse range of students at Richmond College is a source of strength for the college”.

Richmond upon Thames College has 2,500 pupils in attendance and was recently rated ‘good’ up from ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted, the inspectors of which said the school had been “very successful in rapidly improving the outcomes for students”.

Principal and CEO of Richmond upon Thames College Robin Ghurbhurun said: “Richmond upon Thames College is one of the safest college campuses in London.

“Richmond upon Thames College’s student cohort is not unique and many state and private schools, colleges and universities throughout London experience drugs and anti-social behaviour incidents.

“The proportion of incidents that have occurred at the college over the last three years is very low relative to total student numbers.

“This information clearly demonstrates the college’s zero tolerance approach to drugs and anti-social behaviour and serves to provide assurance of this to the wider local community.”

The colleges disciplinary procedure states students will normally be allowed to return to their studies after serving a suspension of up to a week, though this can be extended.

It states: “A suspension will normally be for no more than seven days in the first instance but a period of suspension may be extended subsequently if authorised by the head of student services.”

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