Inspectors praised Birkbeck for safety and discipline

Birkbeck School has been praised by inspectors for its policy on discipline. "The policy for promoting discipline and good behaviour is good,'' Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, said in a report on the school.

It promoted "learning, responsibility and respect'' as its core values. In fact, its overall record so impressed a visiting headteacher that he wrote to the school saying: "Students feel safe at the Birkbeck school.''

The school has also won a reputation for developing a caring attitude towards its 270 pupils.

A neighbouring grammar school creams off the top 30 per cent of performers in 11-plus tests, so Birkbeck has to look after more than its share of pupils who would struggle to keep up in class. According to Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, it caters for "an above average proportion of lower attaining pupils''.

Last year nearly half of the pupils - 45 per cent - obtained the benchmark of five top grade A* to C grade passes. That is lower than the national average but good given the school's intake. Because of the small number of pupils on the school's roll, the pass rate can fluctuate markedly from year to year.

Truancy at the school was also low at 0.3 per cent on any day, which is less than one pupil a day missing lessons.

The school is improving, and inspectors praised it for what they described as a"considerable and sustained improvement in overall performance".

Teaching standards are high, with four out of 10 lessons good or very good - with staff praised for instilling a sense of responsibility into pupils.

"Pupils have the opportunity to assume positions of responsibility through a paired reading scheme [where older pupils read to younger ones who are struggling to learn] and through sports leadership,'' the inspectors said. "They undertake a good deal of charitable work in the local community.''

Luke Walmsley, the boy who died, was keen on sport - particularly football - and an ardent Liverpool fan.

In short, as John Stevens, the chairman of the school's governing body, said yesterday, the picture painted of the school is one where "there isn't a problem with violence''.

"Normally, it is a very quiet, well-behaved country school. This incident has come out of the blue,'' he added.