School shuts after 11-year-old loses finger 'fleeing bullies'

·4-min read

A school has closed "on health and safety grounds" after an 11-year-old boy lost his finger while "fleeing bullies".

Raheem Bailey was beaten by a group of children at school, his mother Shantal Bailey said.

He tried to escape, but got his right-hand ring finger caught while climbing a fence, and it later had to be amputated.

Ms Bailey said Raheem has faced "racial and physical abuse" since he started secondary school in South Wales in September.

Police are now investigating a report of an assault on Raheem, and the school trust on Monday closed all of its campuses.

Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said the school was working with Gwent Police to find out what happened.

"All campuses at Abertillery Learning Community will be closed (on Monday) on health and safety grounds. Learners will access blended learning," it said in a statement.

"The safety and well-being of learners and staff remains of paramount importance to the learning community and the local authority at all times."

The family have received a flood of support since Ms Bailey described her son's plight in a GoFundMe page she set up last week to support his recovery, which hit more than £90,000 in donations by Sunday.

Celebrity sports stars including boxer Anthony Joshua and footballers Jadon Sancho and Ashley Williams have sent private messages of support through Ms Bailey's Instagram.

Ms Bailey said Raheem also received messages from football manager and ex-Spurs player Chris Hughton, pundit Gary Neville and Olympic BMX biker Kye Whyte.

US basketball player Gerald Green, who forged a hugely successful career with nine fingers, has even set up a call to speak to Raheem directly, she added.

She said: "Here's so many people just in different places that have been so generous, and I did not expect what has happened so I am truly, truly grateful for it."

Describing what happened to Raheem, she said: "While he was climbing over, he had a ring on, and his ring attached to the fence and it ripped but also broke his finger.

"Basically, he was running away because he was so tired of being picked on every day."

'Utter agony'

Ms Bailey said her son was "truly brave" and had been "in utter agony".

"The whole time [he was] telling me 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry mummy. I just couldn't, I couldn't stay there, like why does no one like me?'"

On how he is doing now, she said: "Occasionally, he's feeling very down and I have to talk to him and make him understand that no matter what, I will be there."

But she added the support has "really put smiles on his face" and is "making him pick his head up".

She also said the messages he has received mean so much, as people tell him "how strong he is and that this does not define him".

Speaking about the wider issue of bullying and racism in schools, she said: "Why should I send my child into school to be a punching bag?"

"I just don't understand, something needs to be done, I think it needs a conversation to be had."

Growing tearful, she said: "It is difficult, as a mum, having to tell your child that people might not like you because of your skin - not because you're mean, not because you're horrible, but just because of the skin he was born into."

Gwent Police said it is investigating a report of an assault of an 11-year-old boy at a school in Abertillery on Tuesday 17 May.

Superintendent Vicki Townsend said: "Our officers are supporting and liaising closely with the family of the young boy who, when leaving the school grounds following the reported assault, received a serious injury to his hand as a result of it being caught in a fence.

"Since we received this report, on Wednesday 18 May, there has been significant interest and coverage of this. I would urge people to think about the impact their social media posts and commentary could have on those affected, as the police investigation continues.

"We're working closely with the school and officers continue to carry out enquiries in the area."

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi called the incident "sickening" when appearing on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

The Welsh government said: "We condemn bullying and racial harassment in any form and expect allegations and incidents of bullying and racism to be fully investigated by schools, with appropriate action taken to address the matter and prevent further instances from happening."

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