A NUMBER of pupils were taken to hospital this week after suffering burns while taking part in an Ash Wednesday assembly.
Parents of pupils at St Augustine’s Catholic High School, based on Stonepits Lane, said the traditional service was stopped half-way through when pupils complained about a ‘tingling’ sensation on their foreheads.
One concerned grandparent said up to 100 children were burned – some with their skin completely torn away – and now parents are considering legal action against the popular school.
Traditionally the ash comes from leaves burned from last year’s Palm Sunday services.
Ash Wednesday is typically performed by a school priest.
It involves receiving a mark of ashes on the forehead as a token of penitence and mortality.
Mum Cassena Brown, aged 39, said her son Chairo Rowe, aged 14, was so badly burned he will be off school for ‘days’ following advice from a doctor.
“I am absolutely furious,” she said, “It was performed by the priest and two sixth form pupils.
“That confused me straight away – I was thinking ‘why is the school letting pupils put ash on other pupils’?
“Some of the teachers who had it done said they were burnt too.”
Staff offered pupils wet wipes so they could rub the ash off but in some cases it was too late, with their skin already going red-raw.
Cassena added: “The children should have been sent to a medical professional straight away not just given wet wipes.
“My son is of Afro-Caribbean heritage so you can see his burn very clearly.
“Last week girls in his class were telling him how cute he is but now he doesn’t even want to show his face because he’s too embarrassed.”
Another mum said: “It’s horrific and was like some sort of horror movie. I can’t believe it actually happened.”
Parents were sent text messages about the incident shortly after the assembly.
The school has confirmed an investigation is underway.
A spokesperson for St Augstine’s said: “During the Ash Wednesday service it came to our attention that discomfort was experienced by some students who had received the ashes on their forehead.
“The school is dismayed by this event.
“Those impacted were administered on site by trained first aiders and then advised to seek further medical attention.
“A subsequent report will be made available to all stakeholders and any recommendations will be dealt with accordingly. We take students’ health and safety very seriously. ”