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Report into care of murdered teen probes school roll system

Mother feels son was dismissed as a ‘problem child’ who had to be moved on

19 March, 2021 — By Calum Fraser

Nedim Bilgen, who died after being attacked in Caledonian Road

THE mother of a teenager who was stabbed to death has said she felt his secondary school saw him as a “problem child” to “move on”, as an investigation raised questions about his care.

Nedim Bilgin, 17, died after being attacked in Caledonian Road more than two years ago.

Nobody has been charged with his killing.

Now a report into how he was treated by the council, the courts and his school has been published highlighting key turning points in his life which led him to be drawn into a “street life” and “exploited” by “suspected gang associates”.

Two years before his murder, he was moved from St Mary Magdalene Academy to an “alternative provision” (AP) in Enfield and then removed from the Liverpool Road school’s register.

A council social worker believed the secondary school was “keen” to have Nedim “off-rolled”, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review (CSPR) report said, adding “The worker did not think that alternatives had been fully explored or that the placement was likely to succeed.”

The teenager’s mother Remziye “shared some of these views”, the report said, adding: “She thinks that her son was seen as a problem child and that the school ‘wanted to move him on’.”

Within two weeks of starting at the AP, Nedim stopped attending altogether.

The provision sent letters to his mother and to St Mary Magdalene believing that he was still enrolled at that school as well so they could help.

The report said: “It was unhelpful for the two schools to have had no agreed understanding of their responsibilities to manage attendance problems.”

However, the investigator also said: “There is no evidence that the secondary school proposed or arranged this move in bad faith.”

England’s new children’s commissioner Rachel de Souza announced this week that she wanted to “end” the practice of off-rolling.

Critics say it is a way for schools to remove difficult or low-achieving pupils from their records without having to exclude them so it does not impact any Ofsted inspection and rating.

The review also investigated Nedim’s life outside of school. He was known to frequently attend the Copenhagen Youth Project (CYP) in Copenhagen Street.

In April 2018, he was arrested after an “affray involving members of rival gangs” with “knives and weapons”, the report said, adding: “His bail conditions barred him from attending the youth centre outside which the affray had happened, and from having contact with a number of other local young people.

“From this point he became more active and prominent in local criminal activity, delivering or dealing drugs and in more open conflict with members of rival groups.”

Professionals then raised concerns that he had been groomed into part of a “county lines” drugs network.

He returned to his home in January 2019 after going missing and he was killed a few weeks later on January 29.

CYP director Stephen Griffith said: “Nedim was a popular young man with a great sense of humour. He was always respectful to CYP youth workers and respected the boundaries of the Youth Club.

“Following this tragedy it is clear we must improve the coordination of support services and the communication between all professionals in order to help protect children and young people who’s life become difficult.”

St Mary Magdalene Academy headteacher’s Kim Turner-Wood said: “The Academy reiterates our deep sorrow at the murder of this young man. Nedim was a much-liked former pupil who transferred to a college before the end of Year 11 at the request of his father and Nedim himself.

“This was agreed by all other agencies concerned. His violent death in the community two years later highlights the challenge of gang violence within some of the poorest communities in this borough.”

The council’s education chief Labour councillor Michelline Ngongo said: “We offer our sincere condolences to Nedim’s family and loved ones as they continue to come to terms with his death.

“We have always worked exceptionally hard to tackle knife crime and serious youth violence on our streets, investing heavily over the last five years in early intervention work to help steer our most vulnerable young people away from exploitation and criminality. But there is always more we can do and we fully support the conclusions and recommendations of the review.”

She added: “We have carefully considered these recommendations and the learning from the review and have taken action already in areas where local practice can be further strengthened, with other agencies.

“This includes putting measures in place for even closer working relationships with police and all Islington schools to improve the quality of our safeguarding work, for helping parents early on to anticipate challenges that may emerge in adolescence, and for supporting our teams to critically reflect on the effectiveness of strategies they use to engage each young person.”

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